Fire Class Guide: Understanding UK Fire Classifications from A to F

Understanding the different classes of fires is crucial for effectively fighting fires and ensuring safety. Fires are classified based on the materials that are burning, and each class requires a specific approach and type of fire extinguisher for safe and efficient extinguishment. Our guide provides a comprehensive overview of the six classes of fires, the best extinguishers for each class, their typical locations, primary use, and suitabilities.

The six fire classes

Extinguisher usage and the six fire classes

Fire class type comparison chart use

The legal position on fire safety for UK businesses

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) states the Responsible Person (RP) has a general duty to take general fire precautions (Article 8) and as defined under Article 4(1)(d) ‘measures in relation to the means for fighting fresh on the premises.’

Article 13 defines this responsibility further:

(1) The responsible person must ensure that:

a) The premises are, to the extent that it is appropriate, equipped with appropriate firefighting equipment


b) Any non-automatic firefighting equipment so provided is easily accessible, simple to use, and indicated by signs.

(2) For the purposes of Paragraph (1), appropriateness is to be determined having regard to the dimensions and use of the premises, the equipment contained on the premises, the physical and chemical properties of the substances likely to be present, and the maximum number of persons who may be present at any one time.’

Legally, employers need to ensure that a business premises is correctly fitted with fire extinguishers suitable for tackling the likely fires that will occur on their premises.

Class A fires – ordinary combustible materials


What is a class A fire? These fires are the most common type and can occur in virtually any environment. They are characterised by their ability to be extinguished with water or other extinguishing agents that can cool the burning material. 

Type of fire: Class A fires involve ordinary combustible materials such as wood, paper, cloth, rubber, and certain plastics.

Suitable extinguishers: Water, Water Mist, (Foam, Dry Powder and Wet Chemical can also be used).

Extinguisher use

To extinguish fires involving solid materials

Extinguisher suitabilities

Suitable for general use in a wide range of environments

Typical locations

Homes, offices, schools, and other commercial buildings

Class B fires – flammable liquids


What is a class B fire? These fires are fast-spreading, very dangerous, and difficult to extinguish as they can quickly reignite.

Type of fire: Class B fires involve flammable or combustible liquids, such as petrol, kerosene, oil, tar, paint, wax, and solvents.

Suitable extinguishers: Foam, Dry Powder, and Carbon Dioxide CO2.

Extinguisher use

To extinguish fires where smothering the fire to block the oxygen is crucial

Extinguisher suitabilities

Suitable for use in workshops, garages, and industrial settings

Typical locations

Garages, fuel storage areas, painting areas, and industries involving flammable liquids

Class C fires – flammable gases


What is a class C fire: These fires can lead to explosions if not handled correctly and require the gas source to be turned off before extinguishing.

Type of fire: Class C fires involve flammable gases such as propane, butane, methane, and natural gas.

Suitable extinguisher: Dry Powder.

Extinguisher use

To extinguish fires involving flammable gases safely

Extinguisher suitabilities

Suitable for industrial environments and places where flammable gases are used or stored

Typical locations

Kitchens, heating rooms, factories, and any locations where flammable gases are stored or used

Class D fires – flammable metals


What is a class D fire? These fires are extremely hot and require a special extinguishing agent that does not react with the burning metal.

Type of fire: Class D fires involve combustible metals, such as magnesium, titanium, aluminum, and potassium.

Suitable extinguishers: Special Dry Powder extinguishers designed specifically for combustible metals.

Extinguisher use

Suitable for specialised industrial environments

Extinguisher suitabilities

Suitable for general use in a wide range of environments

Typical locations

Laboratories, industries manufacturing or processing metals, and metalworking areas

Electrical fires – electrical equipment

A 1

What is an electrical fire? These fires can be caused by short-circuits, overloaded electrical outlets, or other electrical malfunctions.

Type of fire: While not officially classified in the UK and many other countries, Class E is often used informally to describe fires involving electrical equipment.

Suitable extinguishers: Carbon Dioxide CO2 and Dry Powder extinguishers.

Extinguisher use

To extinguish fires without conducting electricity back to the user

Extinguisher suitabilities

Suitable for any environment with electrical equipment

Typical locations

Offices, server rooms, construction sites, and any location that uses electrical equipment

Class F fires – cooking oils and fats


What is a class F fire? These fires are unique to cooking environments and require a specific extinguishing agent to cool the fire and prevent re-ignition.

Type of fire: Class F fires involve cooking oils and fats, such as vegetable oils, animal fats, and greases.

Suitable extinguisher: Wet Chemical extinguishers are designed to tackle cooking oil and fat fires.

Extinguisher use

To extinguish fires involving cooking oils and fats safely

Extinguisher suitabilities

Suitable for commercial and domestic kitchens

Typical locations

Kitchens, restaurants, cafeterias, and any place where cooking is performed

Fire extinguisher guide

Keep your people safe with us

Learn about the fire extinguishers variants and how they help extinguish the various fire types.

Talk to IPS Fire and Safety about your fire safety responsibilities. From an initial fire risk assessment to team fire safety training and the supply and fitting of fire extinguishers, we’re here to help you keep your people safe and meet your legal fire safety requirements.

Talk to us about how we can help with your fire safety requirements

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