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Fire Classifications and Containment Tips for Homeowners

For most homeowners, the threat of fire comes in the wintertime when heating units are in continuous use. However, a fire can occur anytime, even during the summer months. Knowing how to fight a fire and who to turn to for help are important. With ServiceMaster DSI's fire damage restoration services, homeowners have access to experienced professionals when it comes to restoring their homes.


Fires are classified into different categories that are based on the fuel source. By learning more about the types of fires that can occur, you can determine if you can take preventative action.

A Class A Fire is one that can be extinguished by water. This type will start from fuel sources such as wood, plastic, paper, fabric or trash. Water can extinguish this type of fire and minimize damage if caught early on.

Class B is a type extinguished by depleting oxygen. This type of fire results from flammable gas or liquids such as alcohol, paint, solvents, gasoline or kerosene. This type of fire must be smothered to be extinguished. Never try to put out this type of fire with water, as it will only cause the flames to spread, making the job of disaster restoration in your home more difficult.

A Class C fire will take place due to electrical power. If the power is shut off, the source of the fire is put out. Any flames will need to be suppressed with chemicals such as carbon dioxide.


All homes should be equipped with a standard ABC fire extinguisher. This model can be used to douse Class A (wood/paper/trash), Class B (flammable liquids) and Class C (electrical) fires. A Class D fire extinguisher is needed for combustible metals. Only use the fire extinguisher if it's the right one for the fire.

To discharge the fire extinguisher, remember the P.A.S.S. acronym:

  • P = Pull the pin, which also breaks the tamper seal.

  • A = Aim the extinguisher at the base of the fire, taking aim from about six to eight feet away.

  • S = Squeeze the handle to release the dousing (extinguishing) agent.

  • S = Sweep the hose back and forth at the base of the fire until it appears out or until the fire extinguisher is empty.

If your attempts at using a fire extinguisher are not successful in putting out the fire, evacuate the home immediately and call 9-1-1.


While there is often a critical amount of damage from a fire, the building itself may affect the way a fire burns and the overall severity of the loss. This is largely due to the type of material making up the building. The NFPA categorizes building materials into five types, determined by their combustibility.

  • Type I (Fire resistive): These high-grade, fire-resistant materials are used in most high-rise buildings. This type of building material (for example, concrete) can either resist extreme combustion conditions or has been treated with a fire-resistant coating (for example, most steel structural beams).

  • Type II (Non-combustible): These materials are resistant to fire in that they cannot combust; however, they can melt or lose structural integrity when exposed to high heat. Shopping centers and large public buildings often use non-combustible materials like steel rafters in construction.

  • Type III (Ordinary construction): Row or mass housing, older buildings, and some newer homes often use these common building materials. These materials, such as brick and mortar with wood frames, are not completely resistant to fire nor are they strictly non-combustible. Rather, they're a mixture of resilient materials and design-based materials. Buildings constructed with ordinary can sustain more damage than Type I and II buildings in the face of a fire.

  • Type IV (Heavy timber): Community-based buildings such as temples, churches, and town halls are frequently built using heavy timber. While heavy timber is combustible, it burns much more slowly and can withstand higher heat than other types of wood-based construction.

  • Type V (Wood frame): As the most combustible building material, wood frames sustain the most damage under the duress of fire. Most ranch-style homes, small one-story apartments and other single-family residential buildings are built with wood frames.


Hoarding is rarely discussed as a fire hazard but can have severe consequences in firefighting efforts. According to the NFPA, the excessive accumulation of materials in homes poses a significant threat to firefighters responding to other emergencies in these homes, residents, and neighbors.

Often, blocked exits prevent people from escaping the home. Many people who are hoarding are injured when they trip over things or when materials fall on them. Adjacent neighbors, too, can be quickly affected when a fire occurs due to excessive smoke and fire conditions.

At ServiceMaster DSI, we assist with hoarding cleanup to accomplish the following:

  • Remove clutter and clean up debris.

  • Coordinate recycling and shredding.

  • Help distribute donations.

  • Assist in distributing kept items to family members (local and national).

  • Help facilitate paperwork required by local governments or agencies.


To mitigate the effects of fire, be prepared with a plan in place. Take steps to protect yourself and your property from potential damage. Being informed and proactive about preparedness can help ensure your family is safe during an emergency.

For further information about fire cleanup and prevention, contact ServiceMaster DSI at 844-413-3130 or submit a contact form online.