Put that fire out!

A careless match, a glowing ember from a fireplace or a braai, an electrical short… there are many causes of fire in the home and workshop, and a little knowledge of how to put one out is invaluable.

In the case of an electrical fire, do not use water. Turn off the power source and smother the flames using a dry powder extinguisher or fire blanket. Aim the extinguisher at the base of the fire.

If fuel or paint has caught alight, again, do not use water: petrol, for instance, floats on water and all you will do is spread the fire. Use a fire blanket to smother the flames, or dry powder extinguisher, aimed at the base of the fire, to smother the flames.

When frying foods or cooking with fat, keep a large pot lid handy – one that will completely cover the pan or pot you are using. If the fat catches fire, drop the lid on to the cooking utensil – deprived of oxygen, the fire will be extinguished or at least contained while you get the pan to a safe area, possibly outdoors.

Choosing a fire extinguisher

A dry powder extinguisher is suitable for use on flammable liquids, paper, wood and textiles, and electrical fires, and that covers most of what you are likely to encounter in the home and garage.

Instead of buying a single large appliance, rather purchase two smaller ones, of about 1,5kg capacity. They are light, portable and handy, and if you have two, you double your chances of being able to get to one in an emergency.

Mount them on a wall, at a convenient height, at the entrance to your garage and in your kitchen.

Make a point of checking them every month to confirm that the contents are still under pressure; it is also a good idea to have them serviced on a regular basis, around once a year or so.

A very useful accessory to an extinguisher is a fire blanket – consider buying one of these as well. It is simply dropped on to the fire, smothering the flames, but bear in mind that these are very much single-use: after a single use the blanket must be replaced with a new one.


Disclaimer: The information provided here has been approved by a practicing physician, but it is provided as a guide. Hence, in all medical emergencies, incidents or accidents, if in ANY doubt whatsoever as to the severity of the injury to the patient, seek medical and/or paramedic assistance.

What to do when calling for medical assistance:

  1. Provide your name, telephone number and your physical address where the emergency has occurred.
  2. Give a brief description of what has happened and the result… ’My husband fell of a ladder and is unconscious.
  3. Do not hang up until the operator tells you to – he or she might need further information from you.
  4. Send a family member to the road outside so that they can attract the attention of the medical team – every second lost when they are looking for the address could be vital.