GREENSBORO, NC -- You know by looking at a piece of fruit whether it's good or bad. The expiration date on a bag of chips tells you after a certain time they may not taste the best. But your fire extinguisher?
According to Real Simple Magazine, manufacturers say most extinguishers SHOULD work for 5 to 15 years. That's a big span. Greensboro Fire Department helped us put old fire extinguishers to the 2Test.
2WTK asked folks in the newsroom to bring in their extinguishers from home.There's one here from 1994. It's 20 years old! You can find the date either on the bottom or on the label. Most of us buy an extinguisher and just forget about. But if you're not checking it and it's 10 years old, will it work?
Fire extinguishers do have a shelf life. But most of us buy one and never replace it. Not in 3 years, not in 5 years. Will it work?
We tested five fire extinguishers ages 3 years old to 20 years old. Greensboro Fire pulled out an old stove, set it on their training ground and then lit a pan on fire to si
mulate a kitchen grease fire.
All five worked just fine. "Those five worked fine, but the next five may not, you never know," says Greensboro Fire Educator April Roberston. "You don't want to take that chance at the last minute. Spend $30 and you know it works as opposed to if it works it works, if it doesn't you've burned your kitchen up."
And what about barely used extinguishers? They still felt full. 2WTK asked April to light the pan one more time. Yes, there was stuff inside, but it came out like a trickle, versus a stream. To use it to get a fire out you would have to get way to close to the fire.
"All the agent in there is pressurized so once you release some of that pressure even if there is stuff still inside the bottle there may not be enough pressure to push it out.. With how fast these flames build, you don't want to waste time either."
April makes a good point. Out in the testing area, there is nothing else to burn. In your house the fire is growing so rapid it's going up to your microwave over your stove, in your cabinets, your walls it's growing so rapidly you don't want to waste time looking for your extinguisher.
Speaking of wasting time, Check out where 2WTK's Tanya Rivera's fire extinguisher is. We needed arrows so you could find it.
Yours needs to be easy to get to, and not in the cabinet next to the stove. Another key point, really take a look at your extinguisher and know how to use it.
2WTK did a step by step of how to use an extinguisher a few months ago. Yes, you point and spray, but there are tricks that'll help you put the fire out faster. So check out the video.
One last thing, some of these extinguishers are single use. Some are rechargable. You should re-charge your extinguisher every year-- it's about $18. Google "fire extinguisher recharge" with your area name.
If you have a disposable fire extinguisher, check it periodically to make sure it is holding it's charge. Look at the the manufacturer's guidelines for when you need to replace it.
WEB EXTRA: WHY YOU SHOULDN'T THROW SALT/BAKING SODA ON A FIRE
Greensboro Fire Educator April Robertson explains why a cookie sheet is a better answer for a kitchen cooking fire.