Fire Extinguishers FAQ

The Ontario Fire Code has specific requirements for the installation of portable fire extinguishers in most buildings, including vacant buildings, with the exception of single family homes.

How many do I require?

The number will vary depending on a number of factors, including the size of the building, number of floors, the use of the building and other factors.

What do the A, B, and C, as well as the numbers, mean on portable fire extinguishers?

The letters indicate the type of fire for which the extinguisher is designed to be used.

An 'A' extinguisher can be used on normal combustibles such as paper, wood and cardboard, etc.

A 'B' extinguisher is for flammable liquids, such as grease or gasoline.

A 'C' stands for energized electrical.

Many extinguishers will have multiple ratings such as ABC or BC.

The numbers designate the size of a fire that the extinguisher can put out. Examples include a 2A10BC or a 40BC extinguisher. Read the instruction label found on the front of portable fire extinguishers in your building or business to become familiar with their operation and ratings.

I operate a restaurant; do I need a special type of extinguisher?

Kitchens equipped with commercial hoods and kitchen suppression systems are required to have a Type "K" extinguisher, which is designed for use with these systems.

They don't look the prettiest; can I locate them in a closet or cupboard?

The Ontario Fire Code requires that portable fire extinguishers be mounted so that they are visible and accessible at all times. A highly visible fire extinguisher will help to ensure that it can be easily reached in the event of a fire, and that all staff and customers are aware of its location at all times.

In large warehouses, stores or where visibility is obstructed, signs should be installed to help guide the way to extinguisher locations.

How often do I need to service my portable fire extinguisher?

The Ontario Fire Code requires that all portable fire extinguishers must be maintained in accordance with NFPA (National Fire Protection Agency) 10. This means that the extinguisher is to be visually checked monthly for any sign of tampering and damage. Remove the extinguisher from its bracket and examine it closely. Ensure that the extinguisher's gauge is pointing to the 'OK' area, that the protective pin is in place and that there has been no obstructions placed in the hose or nozzle that will affect operation.

Once a year you are required to have the extinguisher serviced by a qualified firm that has tools and materials available to service the unit properly.

What do these companies do when they service the unit?

The service preformed will vary depending on the age of the extinguisher and the type of extinguishing agent. Often, the extinguisher may be serviced on site without the need for removing it from your building. Ensure that the service technician performs a check similar to what you do monthly, as well as additional checks, including weighing the extinguisher. Following the service, a new service tag should be installed showing the name of the company, the technician's signature and the date of service.

Does the St. Catharines Fire Service inspect or service portable fire extinguishers?


Members of the fire service do not perform any inspection or servicing of fire extinguishers. During inspections of properties, fire extinguishers will be checked to ensure that they are being maintained in accordance with the requirements of the Ontario Fire Code. If it is found that they are not, an inspection order will be issued to the owner of the property indicating this and requiring that the deficiency be corrected. You will then be required to obtain a firm to do this work for you.

Note: St. Catharines Fire Services staff conducts inspections in full uniform only.

Who do I contact to have my portable fire extinguishers service?

The local phone directory, under fire extinguishers, lists a number of local firms that both sell and service portable fire extinguishers.

How can I remember when my portable fire extinguisher is due for annual servicing?

The tag that is applied by the servicing company will list the date that they preformed their last inspection. When you perform your monthly check, ensure that it has not been more than 12 months since the date of their last visit. Most service companies will arrange to place you on a regular call back schedule where they will return automatically at the required frequency.

How can I get more information about portable fire extinguishers, their operation or recommended placement?

Contact the Fire Prevention Office. There is no charge for this service.

Image of a fire extinguisher in use
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