Tips on Putting Out Fires Without an Extinguisher

If you are safety conscious in your home, you likely have at least one fire extinguisher in your home to deal with any fires that may start. Although fire extinguishers provide a large measure of safety, they can fail sometimes or be out of reach. Learn how fires start and what conditions permit a fire to burn, and you can put out a fire without needing a chemical extinguisher. In order to burn, fire needs a combustible substance, a source of heat and a steady supply of oxygen.

Fire extinguishers may not always be available.

Extinguishing Agents

You can use sand or dirt to put out small fires. Never use water on an oil fire, because water will evaporate and carry burning grease particles. Also, never use water on an electrical fire, because water will conduct electricity and deliver a potentially deadly shock. Before attempting to put out an electrical fire, dry your hands and shut off the breaker if it's not too close to the fire.

Baking soda makes an effective extinguishing agent for grease fires. According to the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, baking soda, when evaporated, creates a carbon dioxide vapor that displaces available oxygen.


You may be unable to disrupt the fire's fuel source, such as an overloaded electrical outlet or a grease pan. In this case, attempt to physically smother the fire and cut off its supply of oxygen. In the earliest stages of the fire, you can use a large blanket, a bedspread or a rug. Work quickly to avoid the object catching fire. If you have a non-flammable blanket, use that instead.

For small grease fires, use a metal pot lid to cover any remaining grease that hasn't caught fire. Never use glass--glass will explode into dangerous fragments if it gets too hot. Also, never try to move a burning object outside before extinguishing the fire or you risk spreading the fire.

Preventing Fires

To prevent or lessen the likelihood of fires occurring in your home, don't overload electrical outlets. Electrical fires commonly start because of an overloaded circuit, so avoid using outlet strips or multiple-attachment plugs. Also, replace any appliances with frayed cords, because touching two parts of exposed metal can cause a short circuit.

Prevent grease fires by cleaning up grease spatters from your stove eye or burner before re-using the stove. Refrain from placing oven mitts or cleaning rags near an open flame or a source of heat.