Codes and Standards Fire fighting Safety / Loss Prevention

Classification of fire and hazard types as per NFPA

Classification of fire

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) categorizes fires by class. The relevant graphics and letter designations that accompany these classes are specified by NFPA 10, the standard for portable fire extinguishers.

This classification of fire is done based on the combustible material that can possibly catch fire, accordingly the safeguards against such different types of fires can be planned.


Class A fires (designation symbol is a green triangle) involve ordinary combustible materials like paper, wood and fabrics, rubber. Most of the times, this type of fire is effectively quenched by water or insulating by other suitable chemical agent


Class B fires (designation symbol is a red square) mostly involve flammable liquids (like gasoline, oils, greases, tars, paints etc) and flammable gases. Dry chemicals and carbon dioxide are typically used to extinguish these fires.


Class C fires (designation symbol is a blue circle) involve live electrical equipment like motors, generators and other appliances. For safety reasons, nonconducting extinguishing agents such as dry chemicals or carbon dioxide are usually used to put out these fire.


Class D fires (designation symbol is a yellow decagon) involve combustible metals such as magnesium, sodium, lithium potassium etc. Sodium carbonate, graphite, bicarbonate, sodium chloride, and salt-based chemicals extinguish these fires.


Class K fires are fires in cooking appliances that involve combustible cooking media (vegetable, animal oils or fats).


Symbols used for classification of fire

Picture 1 - Symbols used for classification of fire

Fire classification chart

Clearly the classification of a fire depends on 'what is burning'. That will determine the severity of the fire, heat radiated, reach of the flames, smoke etc.

Type of a fire is also a strong determinant of which type of fire extinguisher should be used to put out that fire. The following fire classification chart explains different types of fire extinguishers useful for putting off different types of fire.

Following are the main types of fire extinguishers - depending on which fluid is used for putting out the fire. The color code (colored ring at the top of the cylinder) will tell you what type of fire extinguisher you are working with.

Classification of hazards

In accordance with NFPA, areas are typically classified as being light (low) hazard, ordinary (moderate) hazard, or extra (high) hazard.

Light (low) hazard areas are locations where the quantity and combustibility of Class A combustibles and Class B flammables is low. In these areas, expected fires have relatively low rates of heat release. Light hazard areas may include offices, classrooms, meeting rooms etc.

Ordinary (moderate) hazard areas are locations where the quantity and combustibility of Class A combustible materials and Class B flammables is moderate. Fires with moderate rates of heat release are expected in these areas. Ordinary hazard locations could be offices, malls, light manufacturing or research operations, parking garages, workshops, or maintenance/service areas.

Extra (high) hazard areas are locations where the quantity and combustibility of Class A combustible material is high or where high amounts of Class B flammables are present. Quickly developing fires with high rates of heat release are expected. These locations could be sites for cars repair, aircraft and boat servicing, painting, dipping, and coating, storage areas (tanks, containers etc).



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