As local experts in Fire Damage and fire restoration in the York & Yorkshire Coast area, we deal with many different types of domestic and commercial fires and understand fire classifications. All fires are different and need treating in different ways, using specialist knowledge and equipment that we have at hand.
In this guide, we will run through the 6 key fire classifications explaining the differences. Anyone who is familiar with the different types of fire extinguisher will know that what the fire classification is will help to inform which fire extinguisher is appropriate to deal with the fire, and importantly, which one not to use!
This article is similar in some ways to our recent guide to hazard symbols, which is worth reading. Let’s look more into the classification of fire, with some useful explanations and diagrams for different classes of fire.
Fire Classification Symbols UK
The fire classification symbols above are examples of those used to categorise different types of fire visually. There are various different similar versions but, broadly the show the similar visual symbols to classify fires with some differences in different parts of the world, especially in the USA and Australia (others may exist too).
As well as the individual symbols mentioned above, you may see fire classification guides with explanatory words too and here is one shown below, with additional information:
Some of these symbols and fire classification groups are likely familiar, whereas others may not be so we will go through each of them one by one to explain the differences. Remember, as we say with other things, fires (even after they are extinguished) can be dangerous to deal with so use this only as a guide. If you need help after a fire, contact professionals, including fire damage services like ourselves.
Remember also that fires can involve materials with multiple classifications, especially in properties where many materials are found. That said, it is the initial source or what is mainly fuelling the fire that people may primarily be interested in, for example when doing fire investigation work after too.
Fires can happen near to dangerous chemicals or materials, exposing them or breaking them and so presenting a very serious risk. For example, fire damage can expose asbestos containing materials (ACMs). Thankfully, we offer an asbestos testing service in York.
On this topic, you may be interested in our recent blog post explaining how there can be asbestos in artex ceilings. Let’s go through each of these one by one now, comparing each one. Plus, there is a useful HSE fire safety page.
Class A Fire – Solid Combustibles
The first fire classification is class a, solid combustibles. As the symbol above shows, this first fire classification is fires involving solid combustible materials such as wood, cardboard, paper, fabrics etc which is fuelling the fire.
We quite often deal with the after effects of fires from fireplaces or wood burning stove fires, which could include such types of combustible materials or others. A fire such as this can often have been extinguished using water so sometimes as well as fire damage there can be water damage to deal with to (which we are also experts in).
Combustibles are a source of fuel, which is one of the 3 fire triangle elements.
Class B Fire – Flammable Liquids
The second fire classification class is flammable liquids. As the symbol (showing a petrol can fire) and words above show this is fires involving liquids such as oil, petrol, paints and solvents etc, which can catch fire very quickly.
Fires in commercial buildings or domestic garages (including car fires) can often involve such materials. As you might expect, with this source of fuel these fires provide can spread rapidly and cause major, extensive fire damage. Plus, cleaning such fires up can involve fire residues that need carefully dealing with.
Class C Fire – Flammable Gases
The third fire classification class is flammable gases. As the symbol (gas burner, such as those on gas hobs or camping stoves) and words above show this is fires involving flammable gases such as natural gas, butane and propane.
As we said with the Class B fires, this source of fires can spread very rapidly, In some instances, such as if a gas cannister is exposed to fire, the container can explode spreading the contents widely and exposing them to the flames causing further damage. Sometimes when there are domestic gas explosions it can destroy a house.
Class D Fire – Combustible Metals
Of all the fire classifications on this list, this is perhaps the least intuitive as people may not associate fires with metal such as magnesium and lithium. Well there are two things worth mentioning. Firstly, there are a number of metals that are are more combustible, some especially so.
For example, lithium batteries have been know to catch fire. There are also metals such as sodium which catch fire if exposed to water! (and can be very hard to extinguish). Secondly, as the symbol above shows, metal swarf (small shavings of metal) can be more combustible, especially if they are exposed to other combustible materials too.
Class E Fire – Electrical
Interestingly, sometimes when this fire classification e is shown, often the symbol does not show the ‘E’ letter on it, plus you will often see that they are not given their own ‘full’ classification as although the electricity, or sparks, are not the item catching fire, it is other materials (those on this list) that are on fire as a result.
Nevertheless, it is useful to know about fire classification e and the associated risks, such as electric shock etc. Electrical fires such as this may include things like fuse boxes, electrical wiring and electrical appliances and tools including computers, televisions, hair dryers, extension cable leads and phone chargers for example. Sometimes people list the 5 fire classifications, with this not on it.
Class F Fire – Cooking Oils and Fats
The last fire fire classification on this list is Class F Fires, those involving cooking oils and fats from such things as deep fat fryers, chip pans, frying pans etc. In such instances high temperatures can contribute to the oils or fat to reach a point at which they can reach flash point as vapours from it ignite from an ignition source (which can obviously be present in kitchens). Or even, beyond that at very high temperatures experience self-ignition.
Such fires are technically a subset of the class b and c groups but given their differences, are given their own fire classification. This is a fire classification, like others on this list that needs dealing with accordingly. Anyone who has trained as a chef, cook or kitchen assistant will likely have training for this and the appropriate fire extinguisher, including fire blankets, should be on hand to deal with such fires accordingly.
We hope you found our summary of fire classifications, their symbols and characteristics useful. Fire damage clean-ups following the types of fire listed above can be a challenging experience, but we are on hand to help. Our fire damage technicians are fire and flood specialists who are on hand to give their experience, knowledge and guidance, helping you get your property back to normal safely, thoroughly and efficiently.
If you have had a fire at your home or business our friendly, experienced and local team can help you – get in touch with us and and we will help and advise you.
Other articles related to fire classifications:
- Underfloor Heating Leaks
- Fire and Flood Restoration
- Thermal Imaging Leak Detection
- Heating Boiler Losing Pressure
- Air Quality Meters: Particulate Matter
We’re experts in dealing with many types of fires, so if you need help with these, contact our friendly team to arrange for help and guidance. We also deal with water leaks in Yorkshire homes and businesses, including water leak detection in York.
At Rainbow Restoration – York & Yorkshire Coast we’re experts in Water Damage Restoration, so if you need help getting your property back to normal after a leak or flood, get in touch with our team.
What are the 5 classifications of fire?
When people are referring to the 5 classifications of fire, often they are referring to solid combustibles, flammable liquids, flammable gases, combustible metals and cooking oil & fat fires. Sometimes people add a 6th group, electrical fires but that is often suggested as an ignition source rather than something on fire itself. Depending on the fire classification, different extinguishing methods will be needed including using appropriate fire extinguishers or fire blankets, which is important.
What damage does different fire classifications cause?
The exact fire damage caused by each of the different fire classifications will depend on a number of factors, in particular the volume of materials, location, exact type of materials (for example wood and paper are in the same group but can be different), how large the fire is, how long it burned for and a number of other factors. Remember that fires can involve different materials from different groups of classification as it spreads although often, 1 will be the original source.
What are common causes of fires in the UK?
In the UK, some of the common causes of fire can include cooking, heating equipment (including electrical heaters, gas fires and solid fuel fires, including wood burners), smoking fires, candles, electrical fires etc. Plus at seasonal times of year, things such as Christmas tree fires, barbeque fires and heatwave related fires can occur. A more recently increasing type of fire is battery fires. Those are often accidental fires but clearly fires can be set deliberately to from arson.