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Dry Powder Fire Extinguishers

For classes B and C, a dry powder is used. There are two main dry powder chemistries in use:

BC powder is either sodium bicarbonate or potassium bicarbonate , finely powdered and propelled by carbon dioxide or nitrogen. Similarly to almost all extinguishing agents the powders acts as a thermal ballast making the flames to cool for the chemical reactions to continue. Some powders also provide a minor chemical inhibition, although this effect is relatively weak. These powders thus provide rapid knockdown of flame fronts, but may not keep the fire suppressed. Consequently, they are often used in conjunction with foam for attacking large class B fires. BC extinguishers are often kept in small vehicles since they provide good knockdown of a rapidly flaring class B fire, from a small package.

BC Powder has a slight saponification effect on cooking oils & fats due to it's alkalinity & sometimes used to be specified for kitchens prior to the invention of Wet Chemical extinguishers. Where an extremely fast knockdown is required potassium bicarbonte (Purple K) extinguishers are used. A particular blend also containing urea (Monnex) decreptates upon exposure to heat increasing the surface area of the powder particles & providing very rapid knockdown.

ABC powder is monoammonium phosphate and/or ammonium sulfate. As well as suppressing the flame in the air, it also melts at a low temperature to form a layer of slag which excludes the gas and heat transfer at the fuel surface. For this reason it can also be effective against class A fires. ABC powder is usually the best agent for fires involving multiple classes. However it is less effective against three-dimensional class A fires, or those with a complex or porous structure. Foams or water are better in those cases.

Both types of powders can also be used on electrical fires, but provide a significant cleanup and corrosion problem that is likely to make the electrical equipment unsalvageable.