The History of the Fire Extinguisher

This week’s interesting fact!

As you know, SS Systems turned 20 years old on 6th August this year. As part of our celebrations we are rolling out a series of weekly blogs in August dedicated to the history of all things “fire”. This week it’s the turn of the humble fire extinguisher.

In 1723, Ambrose Godfrey is the first person to go on record as patenting a fire extinguisher. As a celebrated British chemist, he created a cask of fire extinguishing liquid that contained a pewter chamber of gunpowder (sounds scary!). The chamber was connected with a system of fuses which were ignited, thus exploding and scattering the liquid over the fire. It sounds odd to me, purposely sending an explosive device into a fire, but it sounds like it worked!

The modern fire extinguisher that we see today was invented by George William Manby, a British Captain, in 1818. It consisted of a copper vessel of 13.6 litres of pearl ash (potassium carbonate) solution contained within compressed air.

A Russian invented the foam extinguisher – Aleksandr Loran – in 1904. The main tank contained a solution of sodium bicarbonate in water, whilst the inner tank contained a solution of aluminium sulphate. When the solutions were mixed, usually by inverting the unit, the two liquids reacted to create a frothy foam, and carbon dioxide gas.

The CO2 extinguisher in the US was invented by the Walter Kidde Company in 1924. It was actually invented after a request from the Bell Telephone company – they had fires in their telephone switchboards which were difficult to extinguish and needed a solution.

There have been further developments in the fire extinguisher arena. SS Systems sell a “water mist” fire extinguisher.

The water mist fire extinguishers are suitable for tackling general fires and deep fat fires with just one type of extinguisher, even suitable for extinguishing electrical fires up to 35,000V safely. Rather than having to figure out which extinguisher to use for the situation, personnel can use this one type making it easier to deal quickly with a range of fires.

Whichever fire extinguisher you use, it’s crucial to keep them maintained. For more details about how to look after your fire extinguishers, click here.

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