Most people have one these; in their business, home or both. It is an extremely useful object but rarely used, which is a good thing. An early version was first invented by a Greek about 200 BC and then in 1819 a Captain made a splash with his new invention. What is this object? It is a fire extinguisher.
Ctesibius of Alexandria was a Greek physicist and inventor who among his many inventions invented a device that used compressed air to force water out around 200 BC. His was a hand pump system and it was used to get water to a fire; an early fire extinguisher. It was not until the Middle Ages that this type of fire extinguisher would be used again. It was called a squirt and worked by placing the nozzle in water which would be sucked up by pulling out the plunger. When the plunger was pushed in the water came out the nozzle. However the first pressurized fire extinguisher was invented by Captain George William Manby in 1819, which was one of many inventions of his that helped keep people safe or save their lives. Manby’s extinguisher was portable and was a copper container that contained three gallons of a potassium carbonate solution.
Over the years many types of fire extinguishers have been invented including carbon tetrachloride or CTC
extinguishers, soda-acid extinguishers, foam, water, dry powder and wet chemical extinguishers. The United States Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has classified four types of extinguishers based on the size of fire the extinguisher can handle. The four types are:
- Class A: used on fired involving ordinary combustibles like wood, cloth and paper
- Class B: used on fires involving liquids, greases, and gases
- Class C: used on fires involving energized equipment
- Class D: used on fires involving metals like magnesium, titanium, zirconium, sodium, and potassium
On each extinguisher is a symbol that tells the user the type of extinguisher. A chart can be seen here that shows how the extinguisher can be used. Each symbol for A, B, C, and D can be seen on a colored shape. For Class A fires the “A” is in a green triangle. Class B fires the “B” is in a red square, Class C fires the “C” is in a blue circle, and for Class D fires the “D” is in a yellow star. To read more about OSHA’s classification system click here.
Here at the High Plains Museum we have four fire extinguishers that were used by the Goodland Co-op Exchange or the Goodland Fire Department. The photograph on the top left is a back pack fire pump. It is a metal container that is seventeen inches tall by fourteen inches wide with two straps located on the back of the pump. There is a side handle to pump the solution. The photograph on the top right is an antique fire extinguisher that was used by the Goodland Co-op Exchange. On the left we have a red pump extinguisher that is nine inches in diameter and stands twenty-six inches tall. The last photograph is located on the lower right is a fire extinguisher used by the Goodland Co-op Exchange in 1899.
From Greece around 200 BC to the high seas with Captain Manby, the fire extinguisher has
had quite a journey. Many different types of chemicals have been used to put out the fire and over the years OSHA has classified four types of extinguishers. While the object may not be used often it is an important object to have around and keep in working order.
Look for more posts in this series about our wonderful collection of Sherman County history.