Commercial use of fire extinguishers

Fire and Emergency New Zealand

Commercial use of fire extinguishers

80% of all fires in commercial properties get extinguished in the early stages by members of the public, without the need for firefighters. Of these fires, 90% get extinguished using a fire extinguisher.

Fire and Emergency recommends the use of fire extinguishers to ensure the safety of building occupants and employees. This is especially relevant for places where there is a higher risk of fire, such as:

  • cooking areas
  • certain manufacturing processes
  • welding
  • hot work.

We also recommend the installation of fire extinguishers in domestic settings such as homes, cars, caravans and boats.

When to use an extinguisher

Only use fire extinguishers when it is safe to do so, e.g. when the fire is no larger than a waste paper basket or pot on a stove. Always have a safe path of escape, and ensure Fire and Emergency has been called.

See our advice on how to use a fire exitnguisher.

Fire extinguisher suitability




Type of extinguisher

Types of fire

Flammable solids
e.g. paper, plastic, wood

Flammable liquids
e.g. paint, petrol, oil

Flammable gases² 
e.g. butane, CNG, LPG

Flammable metals³
e.g. titanium, magnesium

Electrical equipment
e.g. cables, computers, switchboards

Cooking oils and fats
e.g. chip pans, fryers

Class A

Class B

Class C

Class D

Class E

Class F








Wet chemical














Dry powder







Carbon dioxide









= Recommended
Most effective on this type of fire.


= Limited
May be effective on small fires of this type.


= Not Suitable
Not effective on this type of fire.

Not all fires are the same so there are different types of fire extinguishers. The table above outlines our recommendation about which extinguishers are suitable for different fire types. For more information, refer to the manufacturer’s instructions or New Zealand Standard NZS 4503:2005.