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Do You Know How To Put Out a Fire? | Medilife Blog

Fire safety is an important part of managing your workplace health and safety successfully.  This is because the right people with the right skills can handle a potentially major fire to minimise the risk to people and property.

Is it really that hard?  You have a fire and a fire extinguisher, it’s all self evident isn’t it?

The reality is more complicated.  Understanding what fire is, how it burns and spreads is vital to putting a fire out in the safest possible manner.

A Fire training course gives you those knowledge and helps you develop the skills you need.  For example, did you know there are 4 principles of fire extinction?  And that each of these affects how a particular type of extinguisher works?

Do you know how to pick the best fire extinguisher for a particular type of fire?

Principles of fire extinction

Just as there are four requirements for a fire to keep burning – Oxygen, heat, fuel and chain reaction – There are four key principles to putting out a fire:

  1. Cooling
  2. Inhibiting
  3. Smothering
  4. Starving

You will use different principles depending on the type of fire.  Let’s look more closely at each one:

Note:  This information is intended as an overview only.  Each fire is involves unique circumstances.  Appropriate precautions must be taken before attempting to extinguish any fire.


Water is very effective at removing heat from a fire faster than the fire can produce it.  This means the temperature is lowered to a point where it can no longer produce flammable vapours.

Cooling is an effective method for fires with solid fuels such as wood and plastic.


This involves stopping the chain reaction of the fire from happening.  For example if a fire involving live electrical equipment you may be able to inhibit the chain reaction by removing the power source.


Covering the flame completely will deprive the fire of oxygen.  If the fire is unable to access O2 it cannot continue.  Smothering can be accomplished in two ways, depending on the circumstances:

  • Extinguisher – Most non-water extinguishers work by smothering the fire.
  • Fire Blanket – These are ideal for small fire in the kitchen, especially when cooking oil is involved.


Removing the source of fuel from a fire can stop it burning.  Examples of this could be:

  • Turning off the supply to a gas fire
  • Removing loose rubbish or waste from around a fire can contain it a smaller area.


Knowing these basic principles of fire extinction can help you to make the best possible decisions when faced with a fire.  They can also help you to understand which type of extinguisher is best and why.

We’ve only considered a small part of managing a fire emergency in this post.  Every workplace should have appropriate plans and training in place to manage this and other health and safety risks.