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Cool It Down

Suppressing Fires

A man extinguishes an open fire with a fire extinguisher.
An article in a series based on the training module “Arson and Fire Safety v4” in the Safety Member Certification program.[1]

From the Bible

And the people cried unto Moses; and when Moses prayed unto the Lord, the fire was quenched (Numbers 11:2).

Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth (Proverbs 26:20).

Who through faith ... Quenched the violence of fire (Hebrews 11:33-34).


When an unwanted fire starts, we instinctively want to put it out. Two things we need to know are, (1) how to put out the fire, and (2) when to give up and get out. We also need to know when the fire is really out and won't reignite.

In the News

Joppa, Maryland, September 13, 2021 - A suspected electrical problem may have started a Monday morning fire in in the utility room at a church in Joppa. It was discovered by church members responding to a call from a neighbor reporting water gushing from an outside pipe. They heard smoke alarms and smelled smoke when they opened the door to the church and called 911. The fire had been contained to the room by a fire-resistant door and was put out by water from a melted water line.[2]
* Note: Fire-resistant walls, ceilings, floors, and doors can contain fire to at-risk furnace and HVAC rooms. Fire suppression systems also can put out fires before they spread, including in kitchens.

Yorktown, New York, May 30, 2021 - A pre-dawn fire on a Sunday morning could have been worse. Across the street, a neighbor's dog started barking alarmingly. The neighbor looked out the window, saw the fire, and called 911.[3]
* Note: Early detection and reporting of a fire can bring swift response and limit damage.

Townsend, Massachusetts, December 21, 2020 - A priest was awakened by a fire alarm and discovered a fire in the rectory. He tried to put it out himself with an extinguisher, but was unsuccessful. In the attempt, he burned his hands. The rectory was total loss, and the priest lost everything. Church records in the office were saved - they were in a fire-proof safe.[4]
* Note: Fire detectors/alarms do work. However, we should know when we can't extinguish a fire and get ourselves out.

Special Resources

A free download, Arson Prevention: 3 Steps to Success, and "Arson and Fire Safety v4," a training module in the Safety Member Certification program, are our special resources.

Arson Prevention: 3 Steps to Success

Arson is a concern for many businesses and organizations, including churches. Arson Prevention: 3 Steps to Success is a PDF file with an overview of the subject of arson and three steps for preventing it:

  1. External security: Lighting, landscaping, combustible materials management/minimization.
  2. Internal security: Smoke & fire alarms, sprinkler systems, window and door locks.
  3. Awareness: By the congregation and by the community.

Get it by clicking *HERE*.[5]

Safety Member Certification

The sixth training module of seven in the Safety Member Certification program is "Arson and Fire Safety v4." It has a detailed coverage of fire safety, including fire science, arson prevention, fire prevention, fire suppression, and evacuation.

After completing each module in the program, team members can take the certification test for that topic. Those who take all modules and pass all tests will receive a two-year Safety Member Certification. Bonus resources are also available with the program.[1]

There are three training modes available: live Zoom classes, classroom (team) training, and online (individual) training:

Live Zoom Classes

Sheepdog Church Security now has live online classes - "Online Events" - on Zoom. Safety team members can register for the classes. Find the information for this by clicking the Training tab. "Online Events" are described under both Individual Certification and Team Certification. The First Semester for 2022 begins February 6. The classes are:

Feb. 6 Safety Team Fundamentals
Feb. 20 Active Shooter Response
Mar. 6Deescalating Disruptive Persons
Mar. 20 Protecting Children from Abuse
Apr. 3Basic Use of Force Laws
Apr. 25 Arson and Fire Safety
May 15 Storms and Disasters

Classroom Team Training

Training materials are available for conducting safety training classes at church. These include an instructor's guide, a PowerPoint slide show, and handouts. This is a way to train the entire team at once, especially when starting the Church Safety Ministry. They can also be used for refreshing and updating training.

Online Individual Training

Individual (online) training gets a new Safety Team member trained without having to wait a long time for on-site classes. It can also be used when a team member cannot attend regular classes.

Ready to Respond to a Fire

You see a fire start, are told of one, or hear a fire alarm. How would you put out the fire? Do you have what you need? If the fire starts with no one there, can it be suppressed before anyone arrives? Not everyone knows how to stop a fire. Can you stop a small kitchen fire with materials at hand? If a fire extinguisher is there, do you know how to use it?

On the other hand, would you know when the fire can't be stopped and it's time to get yourself and others out?

Kinds of Fires

How we put out a fire depends on what is burning. Fire experts have identified five classes of fire, A, B, C, D, and K:

Class A: Ordinary Combustibles

This includes like wood, paper, cloth, many plastics, and rubber. Ordinary water may be enough to extinguish this kind of fire, so a water hose would work. The water itself can smother a fire. It also may cool it down below the ignition point.

Class B: Flammable Liquid

When a fire involves oil, gasoline, alcohol, or other flammable liquids, water will spread it, since the burning liquid floats on the water. Class B extinguishers use a foam or powder which smothers the fire, denying it oxygen. Baking soda can be used to extinguish a small oil fire if you have it but not a Class B extinguisher.

With gas, turn off the source before fighting the fire.

Class C: Live Electrical Equipment

Water is not what you want to use on a fire in live electrical equipment, unless you want to be electrocuted. The contents of a Class C fire extinguisher are not conductive. They will smother the fire if it is also Class A or B. If you can, turn off the source of power to the equipment.

Class D: Combustible Metals

Combustible metal fires are rare in churches unless work is being done with them. They include magnesium, metallic calcium, lithium, and several others. They can ignite with the high heat of drilling, cutting with a saw, and grinding or abrading. Aluminum, titanium, and a few others are combustible if they are powders. A full list is found here. Contents of Class A, B, and C extinguishers can react with some metals, making them burn more fiercely. Use a special Class D extinguisher or smother the fire with sand.[7]

Class K: Commercial Cooking Equipment

Class K fire extinguishers are available for use in kitchens. Fires on ranges and in fryers involve plant and animal fats. Commercial kitchens in most states and/or local jurisdictions are required to have installed fire suppression systems over deep fryers and grills. It is recommended that a church kitchen have a fire suppression system over the range(s) and (if they have them) the deep fat fryer and grill.

Fire Extinguishers

This is the most common device for putting out fires (water hoses are in second place). It is a pressurized canister with a nozzle and a release mechanism (usually a lever). They range in size from less than a foot in length to large enough to need wheeled frames.

Type and Placement

Fire extinguishers come in five classes, as discussed in the previous section. There are some other specialized types of extinguishers which are not found in churches (unless you have an airfield, a marina, or certain kinds of workshops). It is important to have the right kind of fire extinguisher where needed, such as Class A in most locations, Class K in the kitchen, Class C in a mechanical room, and Class B in the room with an oil furnace and in a garage or lawn equipment shed. A large, wheeled extinguisher would be useful for vehicle fires, especially if the church has a large parking lot.

Using a Fire Extinguisher

Almost anyone can grab a fire extinguisher to put out a wastebasket fire. However, as simple as that sounds, not everyone will quickly figure out how to make it work. Many have instructions on them, such as "(1) Pull ring pin. (2) Start from 8 feet back. (3) Aim at base of fire; use extinguisher upright. (4) Squeeze lever, sweep side-to-side."[8]

The instructions may differ for other extinguishers. Some Class C models with powder or foam may have the user aim at the top of the fire. See the instructions for the model you are using.

The best way to know what to do when using an extinguisher is to practice with the types placed in and around the church. Have not only the Safety Team, but all the staff learn how to use them. It's worth the cost of recharging them to have the persons using them know what to do when using them. Besides, they'll need recharging at some point, anyway.

Extinguisher Maintenance

A fire extinguisher should be in good operating condition and fully charged if needed to put out a fire. A fire extinguisher inspector should inspect all the fire extinguishers regularly, punching or marking the date on the tag.

Safety Team members on patrol should take note of each fire extinguisher they pass:

They are in conspicuous locations so they can be found when needed, and that makes them attractive targets for play or mischief. If the extinguisher's pressure is low or the pin is out, have it checked for damage and recharged.

Once a month, check the tags to see when they were last inspected. Have teachers let youthful students know that the fire extinguishers are not for play.

Fire Suppression Systems

If you are building a church building or are in one recently built, it will have fire sprinklers - if it is up-to-code. Sprinklers are now almost universally required for all public gathering places. If you are in an older building without sprinklers, they should be installed. Check with your fire insurance provider to see how this affects your premiums.

A sprinkler head will active when too hot. For example, Mary is in a hurry to get to the restroom. She pinches the wick on her candle and lays it down on a table before going in. The wick is still smoldering and ignites papers on the table. The heat from the fire activates a sprinkler overhead. The water puts out the fire. For Mary, the worst thing is getting wet when she comes out and being embarrassed. She should be thankful she was not trapped in the restroom by a fire.

In many systems, a pressure drop triggered by an activated sprinkler head will set off an alarm. This alarm sounds in the building. It should also sound outside and send a signal to the local fire department. This will get the quickest response possible. In Yorktown, they said that if the call had been 10 minutes later, the building would have been seriously damaged.[3]


Train everyone in how to respond to a fire. Know when it can be extinguished and how. This includes using the right fire extinguisher, where to shut off gas and electric power, and where the hoses and outside faucets are. Parking lot ushers/attendants and Safety Team members should know where the car-fire extinguisher is and how to use it. Know how to sound an alarm and how to report a fire to the safety team. Also know when to get yourself and others out of there.


With a fire, as with a medical emergency or an active killer, the first responders are those persons already there. Know if you can put out a fire and how.

There Is More

The other articles in this three-part series are "Not Too Hot" (Preventing Fires and Arson) and "Escape the Flames" (Fire Evacuation). The first article in January was "The 2009 First Baptist Church of Maryville Shooting" (Lesson Learned).


  1. Kris Moloney, "Complete Training System and Safety Member Team Certification," Sheepdog Church Security, © 2020 [].
  2. Carl Hamilton, "Fire causes $50K in damage to church in Joppa," Cecil Whig Daily, September 17, 2021 [].
  3. Ben Hooper, "Dog's alarm credited with saving New York church after fire erupts," UPI, June 3, 2021 [].
  4. News Staff, "Priest Injured, Historic Building Destroyed in Townsend Church Rectory Fire," NBC 10 Boston, December 21, 2020 [].
  5. Kris Moloney, "Arson Prevention: 3 Steps to Success," Sheepdog Church Security, © Copyright 2018 [].
  6. Staff, "ABCs of Fire Extinguishers," Fire Prevention Services, The University of Texas at Austin, © 2021 [].
  7. Staff, Office of Environmental Health and Safety, "Combustible Metals," University of Michigan-Dearborn, © 2021 [].
  8. Instructions on a Badger compressed nitrogen fire extinguisher.