CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A fire extinguisher is something you probably have in your home. It could save your life and your family. But do you know how to use it?

It was flames on the evening news one night that sparked a simple question: Do you know how to find and operate the fire extinguisher in your home or at the office?

“I always tell people, during an emergency is not the time to be figuring everything out,” said Leigh Kish. She is a fire inspector who teaches the class on working a fire extinguisher to firefighters and everyday people.

You might have heard the acronym P.A.S.S. It stands for pull, aim, squeeze and sweep.

“Ninety percent of people will tell me they’ve never put their hands on it (fire extinguisher) and they’ve never tried to use it,” Kish said.

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When using a fire extinguisher it’s important to remember P.A.S.S.

  1. Pull the pin
  2. You always want to aim at the base of the fire. The base is your source. It’s what’s hot. That’s where your problem is.
  3. Then you squeeze the handle
  4. Sweep the flames. When you sweep, Kish says sweep at the bottom. It’s the best way to fight the flames.


The thing that surprises Kish the most when talking to people about a fire extinguisher is where to keep it. “Most people think the best place to keep their extinguisher is in the kitchen,” Kish said.

But it’s not because most home fires start in the kitchen.

“You don’t want to go to the fire to get to your fire extinguisher,” Kish said.

She says the best idea is to keep it close to your bedroom. And you should have one for every floor of your house.

There are some easy ways to see if your fire extinguisher is still good. Look at the gage. If it’s still in the green, you’re good to go.

Look at the bottom of the can for the manufacturing date. You only want to keep around for five years from that date stamped at the bottom.

When should you use one?

“Honestly, don’t ever use the fire extinguisher,” Kish said. “Just get out and stay out. Call 911.”

The only time Kish says you should use the extinguisher is if the fire is between you and the door.

“’Use it to get out the door,” Kish said. “If the fire is very, very early, possibly. Fire doubles in size every 30 seconds.”

If you want to practice using a fire extinguisher go outside to spray it. The chemicals won’t hurt you, but it won’t taste good if you get it in your mouth. And realize it will definitely make a mess so be careful where you spray it.

But it could be lifesaving for you and your family.