Fire department training stresses proper extinguisher use

Vermillion Fire Chief Shannon Draper (right) assists an employee of Vermillion Public Transit during a fire extinguisher training that was held Monday afternoon. (Travis Gulbrandson/Vermillion Plain Talk)

Vermillion Fire Chief Shannon Draper (right) assists an employee of Vermillion Public Transit during a fire extinguisher training that was held Monday afternoon.
(Travis Gulbrandson/Vermillion Plain Talk)

By Travis Gulbrandson

As of Monday afternoon, the Vermillion Fire Department has taught more than 100 locals the proper use of fire extinguishers.

The program began two months ago and takes place at the training center by the airport, offering an educational opportunity for business owners and their employees, as well as ordinary citizens.

“I think it’s something the community has enjoyed, especially the businesses,” said fire chief Shannon Draper. “It’s pretty much been business people who have been going through it, having their employees learn how to use a fire extinguisher and when to use it.”

During his presentation Draper showed attendees the various kinds of extinguishers and allowed everyone who wanted to a chance to put out a controlled fuel fire, which he lit in a metal container in the grass.

There are several different kinds of fire extinguishers, he explained, including dry powder or chemical extinguishers, and liquid, water or foam extinguishers.

Each extinguisher serves a different purpose, with a letter on the side indicating what type of fire it is meant to quell.

“When we inspect our extinguishers, the first thing is we want to make sure it’s full,” Draper said. “Not overfull, not under-full, but right in the green, which you can see on the dial. If these dials can become damaged … we’ll see it in the needle.

“It’s very obvious if something has happened to it,” he said. “They make this on purpose – the needle is very fragile, and so if the gauge is damaged, that needle will be bent or even loose. That tells you that something is wrong.”

Draper also instructed the participants to examine the extinguisher’s hose before using it.

“Being that it’s a rubber hose, you want to make sure that it’s not dry-rotted, that the kids haven’t stuffed it with paper products or trash or bubble gum,” he said.

The final thing to do is make sure the powder is loose inside the extinguisher.

“That powder actually compresses, so we want to take it and turn it upside down,” Draper said. “You’ll hear the powder fall to the top. If you don’t, you can take a rubber mallet and just kind of tap it. It loosens up that powder, because if you let it sit and compress, when you go to discharge it you’ll only discharge the top portion of it. The rest of it cakes at the bottom.”

When these steps are completed, the extinguisher is almost ready to use.

“We want to pull the pin, we want to aim, squeeze the handle and then sweep back and forth,” Draper said.

He added that users will want to start aiming the extinguisher about 20 feet from the fire, and aim at its base.

“We don’t want to get way up in there and then realize we have a problem with our extinguisher,” he said.

Draper also told the attendees to call 911 right away.

“Don’t try to extinguish the fire and then realize it’s too big,” he said. “I would rather somebody call us and not try to extinguish it than the reverse, try to extinguish it and then have to call us.”

Draper said he hopes safety is the biggest takeaway from the class.

“Don’t let the fire get between you and your exit,” he said. “If you do have a fire, it’s more important to get out, to notify the fire department than engaging the fire with the extinguisher. That is the one thing that I really try to get across.

“Yes, these individuals (who took the class) now know how to discharge an extinguisher and put out a small fire, but this is contained. This is training,” he said. “Even a kitchen fire … spreads so quickly. You need to get the children out, make sure everyone’s out of the house, and call us. Things can be replaced. People can’t.”

People interested in scheduling fire extinguisher training can contact the Vermillion Fire Department at 677-7097.

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