When I was young our neighbors were having a BBQ on the decking and burnt their house down. All the community pulled together to help, and we stored some of the furniture they saved in our garage for a year.
The point is though – they didn’t have access to a fire extinguisher when the blaze broke out, so we do all need one for outdoor use. But can they be safely stored outside?
Fire extinguishers should not be kept outside, but be protected from the elements in a safe and easy to access location nearby. Heat, cold, UV rays, wind, rain and snow are not good for fire extinguishers, especially Class K dry powder extinguishers which are recommended for general household use.
It’s important that you always have a fire extinguisher at the ready at home, especially if you’re frequently grilling on the patio or lighting the fire pit – so this article will help you decide which one you need and where and how you should store it.
Should All Homes Have Fire Extinguishers?
Yes! Fire extinguishers are no-brainers. Fire experts say to keep a fire extinguisher in a central spot on every floor of your house. Who wants to run up a flight of stairs to get a fire extinguisher when you really need one?
Keep one handy in every space where you might accidentally start a fire – the garage, your car, the shed, in your new outdoor work from home office – and on the patio.
For home fires that caused injury, 30% are cooking fires, on average.
Here’s a video on how to use the PASS method to extinguish a fire.
Can You Keep a Household Fire Extinguisher Outside On The Patio?
No. Outside fire extinguishers need a little extra help. Extreme heat and UV rays, blowing dirt, freezing temperatures, rain and snow are not good for fire extinguishers. For your outdoor fire extinguisher, consider a Class K type, mount it in a highly visible spot, and then protect it from the elements.
There are an average of 8,900 grill incidents in the US every year, according to the National Fire Protection Agency. Of these, 17% occurred because the grill was too close to something flammable, like your house, a deck railing, some cushioned patio furniture or one of those adorable Tiki torches. Stick with the 10-foot rule.
Check out these grill safety tips, including how hot a sugary marinade has to be before it catches on fire.
Outdoor fire extinguishers, like indoor ones, should be mounted in a plainly visible, easily accessible spot. Experts recommend mounting an extinguisher about 5 feet from the ground. They recommend a centrally located spot – not more than 30 feet from potential fire spots, like a fire pit or your grill.
Here’s another consideration: don’t put the fire extinguisher between where you might be and where a fire might start. Don’t let the fire prevent you from getting to the extinguisher.
For grill fires, like kitchen fires, the chances of an intense grease fire are high. You should use a “K” (“K” for kitchen) class extinguisher, also called a dry powder extinguisher. Fire experts classify fire types. Dry powder extinguishers are good for paper, wood and trash fires (Class A), flammable liquid fires (Class B), live electrical fires (Class C) and combustible metals (Class D). Class K fires have to do with cooking.
There are five main types of fire extinguishers in the US. Water based extinguishers should be used with trash and wood fires (Class A). Dry chemical extinguishers are used for energized electrical fires (Class C). Carbon dioxide extinguishers are used for flammable liquids (Class B).
A popular, multi-purpose extinguisher is called the ABC, for the classes of fires it can put out. It is a dry chemical extinguisher. The last extinguisher type is the K extinguisher, designed for K (or kitchen) fires. The K class extinguisher uses a soapy foam.
Here’s the US Fire Administration guidelines for types of fire extinguishers.
Can Fire Extinguishers Be Stored in The Sun?
No. Fire extinguishers are tough but harsh UV rays will dry out the hose and other plastic parts. Direct sun will fade the labeling, which may not seem like a big deal but in a safety inspection, that extinguisher would fail.
Modern fire extinguishers have temperature ratings that go from -40° F to 120° F, depending on the type of extinguisher. But checking the air temperature on a thermometer isn’t a good indicator of what a surface’s temperature might be.
Concrete, on a 100° day, can get up to 145° F. Asphalt can get to 150°. Let’s say you have mounted your outdoor fire extinguisher on the side of your house. Rest assured that the materials on the side of your house are considerably hotter than the air temperature. It may exceed that 120° F.
If your fire extinguisher gets too hot, it won’t explode or catch fire. Something potentially much worse can happen. It can just fail to work when you really need it.
Even though your extinguisher rating may be for -40° F to 120° F, direct sunshine can be a problem. The safest bet is to store your extinguisher out of the direct sun. If you live in the northern hemisphere, a south-facing patio gets the most sunshine.
Consider mounting your extinguisher on a north- or west-facing wall. If you have a covered patio, that’s an excellent spot out of the sunshine, wind, rain and snow.
Can a Fire Extinguisher Freeze?
Yes. According to experts a water-based extinguisher can freeze if the temperature drops below 40° F. Also at risk of freezing are foam-based extinguishers, like Class K.
Experts say AFFF foam, FFFP foam and Class K (the type you might want for a BBQ), are all at risk below 40° F. The most widely used extinguisher type, the so-called ABC extinguisher, uses dry chemicals that are not susceptible to freezing.
If you live in a very cold climate, consider a water-based extinguisher that has antifreeze added. They are good for below freezing temperatures. Class D and other dry chemical extinguishers are resistant to -40° F.
Will a Fire Extinguisher Go Rusty in The Rain?
Yup. Fire extinguishers are steel and can rust and corrode. Most fire extinguishers are pressurized. Rust and corrosion can allow pressure to leak slowly out, rendering them useless. Or – even worse – you grab one in an emergency, activate it and it ruptures.
Safety experts recommend inspecting your extinguisher every month. Among several other checks, they recommend looking for rust, corrosion, dents, and cracks. Check the expiration date. Another important check is of the hose. Weather can cause hoses to dry up and crack or rot.
Will a Fire Extinguisher Explode in a Fire? (Or Near Open Flames?)
Highly unlikely. It would be sad if you had to put out a fire on your fire extinguisher. Any safety-tested fire extinguisher has a safety valve to prevent explosion.
What does cause a fire extinguisher to explode? Any closed pressurized device will explode if it is abruptly damaged. Like falling and hitting a hard surface. Experts recommend mounting an extinguisher no higher than 5 feet.
Also, no extinguisher abuse. Rough stuff can cause an explosion.
Extinguishers are made tough, but they will break if they fall, or if something heavy falls on them. It takes a lot to puncture an extinguisher, but many times the failure happens when the valve is hit and breaks off.
Do Fire Extinguishers Have To Be Stored Upright?
A small number of fire extinguishers have to be stored upright. And if you have one that says it should be – then you might need a new one.
Most modern fire extinguishers are pressurized. When they are pressurized, they don’t need to be stored upright. Check the labeling on your extinguisher. If it’s old enough that it is a non-pressurized one, you need to replace it because chances are, it’s expired. You can read that on the label too.
Many fire extinguishers come with a bracket and mounting hardware. Although you may not need to store yours upright, mounting the extinguisher on a wall is a good choice for visibility.
You can also find fire extinguisher cabinets for outside. They range in price from hundreds of dollars down to $30. A cabinet will provide some shade but mostly it will protect the extinguisher from wet weather and blowing dust.
While it’s a good idea to have a readily accessible fire extinguisher if you’re going to be lighting a fire pit or grilling out on the patio – extreme heat, UV rays, blowing dirt, freezing temperatures, rain and snow mean your fire extinguisher needs to be protected if kept within reach for outdoor use.
For Class K fire extinguishers, the ones experts recommend using outside, make sure you mount it in a highly visible place and then protect it from the elements. If you’re going to be using it on the decking or patio, then why not position if just inside the kitchen door or patio doors – so it’s kept inside but easily within reach if a fire starts?
Wherever you choose to safely keep your fire extinguisher, when you’re BBQing or entertaining around the fire pit, it will give you great peace of mind to know it’s there if you ever need it.