Man with fire extinguisher

How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

by Christy McFarland

No one wants to think about a fire starting in their home, but it’s important to know how (and when) to use a fire extinguisher in case the unthinkable happens. We spoke with Bloomington, IL Fire Department Public Education Officer, Stuart Blade, to learn some firefighting basics. 

When should you try to extinguish the fire yourself? 

Remember the three A’s: Activate, assist and attempt. You should only attempt to put out a fire on your own after completing the first two steps.

  1. Activate: Depending on whether you’re at home or a place of business, call 911 or pull the fire alarm. 
  2. Assist: As long as you’re not putting yourself at risk, help anyone in immediate danger exit the building.  
  3. Attempt: After completing the first two A’s, you may choose to attempt to extinguish the fire. It’s important to identify an exit before attempting to put out the fire in case you need to get out quickly. 

How to use a fire extinguisher in four simple steps 

When using a fire extinguisher, remember to PASS (Pull, Aim, Squeeze and Sweep).

  1. Pull the pin 
  2. Aim the hose at the base of the fire about six to eight feet away 
  3. Squeeze the lever
  4. Sweep the flame using a side to side motion until the fire is out 

Be sure to keep an eye on the area in case it re-ignites. To put out a grease fire, cover the fire with a lid or cookie sheet to cut off the oxygen source. You should never use an extinguisher on a grease fire because it could spread the flames making it much worse. 

Never fight a fire on your own if:

  • The fire is spreading at a fast pace
  • The fire is past the “early stages”
  • There is too much smoke

For these instances, it’s important to evacuate and let the fire department handle it.

When do fire extinguishers expire?

Depending on the type, fire extinguishers can last anywhere between 5 and 15 years. If you’re not sure when yours expires – or didn’t know to check the date on the box before recycling it – it’s probably best to replace it after at least 10 years to be safe.

Non-rechargeable fire extinguishers are only good for one use. So, if you use it – even once – you’ll need to replace it.

Where should I take my expired extinguisher?

You should always empty a fire extinguisher completely before throwing it away. If you don’t have a good way to get rid of the fire extinguisher’s contents (it can get messy!), take expired extinguisher to your local fire department.


If you still have fire extinguisher-related questions, call your local fire department’s non-emergency number and they’ll be happy to help!

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Ready to start?

Connect with your local rep or call us at 866-COUNTRY (866-268-6879). 

COUNTRY Financial® is a family of affiliated companies (collectively, COUNTRY) located in Bloomington, IL. Learn more about who we are.