In order to ensure fire safety on a job site, it’s important that all employees and management understand all potential hazards and available methods to neutralize each. FR clothing helps protect workers, but a full understanding of fire safety is necessary.

Ordinary fire extinguishers don’t work on chemical fires – how a fire can be extinguished largely depends on what type of fire it is, and chemical fires are among the most dangerous and they can react unpredictably to water and can trigger chemical reactions.

We’ve combined our knowledge along with information from Scientific American and the University of South Carolina to bring you guidelines on dousing chemical fires.

Wrong Ways to Stop Chemical Fire

A chemical fire, like any other fire requires heat, oxygen, and fuel. With a paper fire, water can be used (along with CO2 fire extinguishers) to remove these necessary flame elements. Pouring water on a chemical fire, however, will cause the water to flash boil, spreading flames quickly.

The red residential fire extinguishers are filled with a dry chemical that can react with the burning chemicals, causing combustion and injury. In order to stop a chemical fire, use one of the trusted methods below.

1. Try Smothering with Fire Blanket

Fire blankets exist for both residential and industrial qualities. Residential fire blankets are typically made of fiberglass or Kevlar®. Industrial fire blankets are made of wool (often treated with a flame retardant).

If a fire is caught early enough, it can be covered by the fire blanket to remove oxygen. Be sure to leave the blanket until the contaminated area can be cleaned and hazardous materials properly disposed of.

2. Use Class D Fire Extinguisher

A Class D fire extinguisher contains a special blended Sodium Chloride-based dry powder agent to extinguish fires. This extinguisher has been shown effective in controlling and extinguishing fires involving magnesium, sodium, potassium, zirconium, uranium, titanium, and powdered aluminum.

Dousing the flames with this extinguishing agent forms a crust on top that robs the fire of oxygen. In larger operations, this agent can be loaded into a special fire-suppression system for emergency usage of large flames.

Chemical fires are dangerous, and proactive safety processes and procedures combined with quick reactions to properly contain and extinguish the blaze is necessary to ensure continued operations and worker safety.

If you work in a job site with combustible chemicals, be sure you’re aware of all safety procedures and know where all fire emergency equipment is. Understanding these protocols may one day save your life.