The Difference Between Class K Fire Extinguishers vs. ABC Fire Extinguishers

There is a grease fire that started on your commercial cooking line. You look back to find two fire extinguishers sitting on the wall. One is a silver fire extinguisher and the other is a common red fire extinguisher. You inspect them a little closer and notice that the silver one is marked as a class K fire extinguisher and the red one is marked as an ABC fire extinguisher. Which fire extinguisher should you use? Before we answer that question, let’s get into what each of the letters mean.

What Do the Letters on Fire Extinguishers Stand For?

The letters on fire extinguishers stand for the class of fire it is able to help extinguish.

The commonly found red fire extinguisher has three letters – A, B, and C.

  • A class A extinguisher can put out ordinary combustible fires such as wood and paper. 
  • Class B extinguishers are for use on flammable liquids fires such as petroleum, gasoline, oil, paint, propane and butane fires. 
  • Class C extinguishers are suitable for use only on electrically energized fires. 
  • An ABC fire extinguisher is a multipurpose fire extinguisher. It can extinguish multiple different types of fires with a multipurpose dry chemical that smothers the burning materials by separating the fuel from oxygen in the air.

Silver class K fire extinguishers are meant exclusively to handle kitchen grease fires. They utilize a foam-forming agent that prevents persistent kitchen fires from reigniting. 

Note: It is important to note that the red ABC fire extinguisher uses a dry chemical agent, which is the opposite of silver class K fire extinguishers.

Class K Fire Extinguishers for Commercial Kitchen Fires

Even though the ABC fire extinguisher may be able to temporarily put out the cooking fire, the class K fire extinguisher with it’s wet chemical agent will help make sure it does not reignite. Unlike the common class ABC multipurpose fire extinguisher, there is a requirement that class K fire extinguishers must be placed within 30 feet of the cooking line. Also, all fire extinguishers must be properly mounted. 

So, back to answering the original question. A class K fire extinguisher should be used to put out a cooking fire, especially in commercial kitchens.

Learn more about fire safety training and protecting your business with the free resources in this Fire Prevention blog series or download this free whitepaper: “Identify and Eliminate Restaurant Fires.” Contact your local Society agent to discuss fire prevention and insurance options for your business.

Author

Adam obtained his bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater in Occupational, Environmental Health & Safety. He has experience in fire science, emergency medicine and risk control. Prior to joining Society as a risk control representative, Adam worked as a firefighter, emergency medical technician and safety coordinator.

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