5Ws+1H: What It's About: Fire extinguisher handy tool to have around

May 14—A fire extinguisher, a common fixture in many households, requires precautionary measures — including several do's and don'ts.

Tahlequah Fire Department Fire Chief Casey Baker said the acronym PASS helps people remember how to properly operate a fire extinguisher. The "P" stands for pulling the pin; "A" is for aiming the nozzle at the base of the fire; the first "S" means to squeeze the lever slowly; and lastly, the second "S" means to sweep from side to side.

Fire extinguishers are meant to put out small fires around homes and businesses, Baker said, and not to fight fires. Baker said the main focus is for people to get out of the house to safety.

"If you have a fire extinguisher and you have a small fire you feel comfortable putting out, you can use it, but we don't want you trying to battle a fire with a fire extinguisher," Baker said. "The main thing is your safety."

Baker said that at a business, fire extinguishers should be checked annually, with an in-service check taking place monthly. In-service checks allow the occupants of the building to know the extinguisher is in working order.

Baker said fire extinguishers are supposed to be within 75 feet and located near an exit. A residence does not have a specific place for the extinguisher to be kept, but Baker said the department prefers one be kept in the kitchen and also in the garage.

For a business, Baker said, fire extinguishers should not hung up more than 5 feet or placed behind a counter or where a customer cannot see it. The container should not be placed on the ground, either.

"The bottom of it draws moisture and it deteriorates over time," Baker said.

Baker said in the event of a grease fire and if a fire extinguisher cannot be located, baking soda can be applied instead.

"Anything to smother the grease fire. You just don't want to put water on a grease fire," Baker said. "A lot of the fires in a kitchen are typically due to some type of grease fire. Smother it. Put a lid on top of it. Cover it up. Smother it or put some type of flour on it."

Most fire extinguishers bought for homes are for a one=time use, but bigger ones in businesses with a metal top are often refillable. Baker said they can be refilled by a local fire extinguisher company.