How to use a fire extinguisher

In an emergency, there is no time to read directions. Your fire extinguisher is only reliable if:

  1. You have installed your fire extinguisher where it is easy to reach.
  2. You have maintained your fire extinguisher properly and it is fully charged.
  3. You know how to use your fire extinguisher safely.

Should you fight the fire?

Warning Warning: Before you fight a fire, consider the risk. If the following conditions are not met, leave immediately, and close all doors and windows behind you:

  • Everyone has left or is leaving the building.
  • Someone has called 9-1-1 to report the fire.
  • The fire is confined to a small area and is not spreading beyond the area immediately around it.
  • You can escape through an unblocked route where the fire will not spread.
  • You have read and understand the directions and know how to use the extinguisher.

How to use a fire extinguisher

Extinguish a fire by standing a distance of about 2.5 metres (6 to 8 feet) away from the fire. If the fire does not begin to go out immediately, leave the area at once.

Remember the acronym PASS, that describes the four-step procedure:


Pull the pin out: This unlocks the operating lever, and allows you to discharge the extinguisher. Some extinguishers have other devices that prevent you from accidentally discharging the extinguisher, so make sure you have read the directions.

2. AIM

Aim low: Point the extinguisher nozzle, or hose, at the base of the fire.


Squeeze the lever: This discharges the extinguisher. Letting go of the lever will stop the discharge. Some extinguishers have a button that you press. Make sure you know the parts of your fire extinguisher.


Sweep from side to side: Move carefully toward the fire, keep the extinguisher aimed at the base of the fire, and sweep back and forth until the flames appear to be out. Watch the fire area. If the fire starts again, repeat the process.

How to maintain a fire extinguisher

Fire extinguishers require regular maintenance. Follow the manufacturer's directions for taking care of your extinguisher. Be sure to check the pressure gauge once a month.

Rechargeable fire extinguishers

Recharge your fire extinguisher immediately if:

  • The pressure gauge shows "Recharge" or "Overcharged".
  • There is powder on or near the extinguisher. This means the extinguisher has been partially discharged.
  • There are any visible defects or damage to the extinguisher.

To repair or recharge a fire extinguisher, contact a certified fire protection service technician. For your convenience, a link to an online Yellow Pages list of companies that employ certified fire protection technicians is listed at right.

Disposable fire extinguishers

Replace disposable fire extinguishers immediately after use. Check the Yellow Pages under "Fire" for companies that sell fire extinguishers. For your convenience, a link to an online Yellow Pages list of fire extinguisher suppliers is listed at right.

Find out more about fire and life safety

Vancouver Fire Rescue Services teach fire and life safety courses where you can learn valuable life and safety skills, and gain hands on fire extinguishing experience. Register yourself, or arrange for us to teach your group to prevent fires in your home, business, school, and other private and public places.

Sign up for fire safety training

Contact Fire Prevention

Monday to Friday
8:30am to 4:30pm

600 - 575 W 8th Ave
Vancouver BC, V5Z 0C4

Fire prevention specialists

View the list of local companies that employ ASTTBC-certified fire protection equipment technicians.

ASTTBC certified technicians from the Yellow Pages