Why We Are Not Making a 5 lb Fire Extinguisher (You May Be Surprised)

Lately a common question for us is, “Do you also make a five pound fire extinguisher, in addition to the 10 pound?” Our answer is no, and I’d like to explain the reason.

If our focus were solely the residential market, then a five pound unit would be in order. For your home, you can’t go wrong buying an Amerex or Strike-First brand fire extinguisher, as they both make a fine product. Back to the main question, “So why not a five pound Oval fire extinguisher?” Oval’s main markets are retail facilities such as big box stores and commercial interiors.

Many big box stores install five pound fire extinguishers in lieu of 10 pound units for multiple reasons. One reason is the simple economy, as a five pound unit costs less than a 10 pound unit. Also, by installing a five pound unit at the NFPA height limit of 60 inches (as measured from floor to handle), it allows shopping carts to roll underneath without a collision. The taller 10 pound fire extinguisher, when installed at 60 inches, still gets hit by rolling shopping carts, and often get knocked off their hooks and hit the floor and sometimes customers.

But the truth is, they aren’t big enough to protect the area in which they’re installed unless you install way more of them than is presently assumed by many.

Many of us in the construction, facilities, and fire safety business know about the “75 foot rule.” We use this “rule-of-thumb” as a way to guide us in the proper location and placement of fire extinguishers within a facility. The NFPA 10 2013 edition, section E.3.3 states “…the travel distance (actual walking distance) from any point to the nearest fire extinguisher shall not exceed 75 ft (22.9m).” That part is clear and usually applied correctly.

What often gets missed is the next sentence in E.3.3 “It is necessary to select fire extinguishers that fulfill both the calculation requirement and travel distance requirements for a particular class of occupancy.”

NFPA 10 Table E.3.5 Maximum Area in Square Feet to Be Protected per Extinguisher allows for a five pound extinguisher with a 3-A rating to cover 9,000 square feet when that area is classified as Light Hazard Occupancy, however only 4,500 square feet when the area is classified as Ordinary Hazard Occupancy—the classification of most retail stores.

So what happens when one efficiently distributes five pound fire extinguishers per the “75 foot rule” into a facility that is classified as Ordinary Hazard Occupancy? Here’s a good example.

Fire Extinguisher Requirements for Distance

Even when not accounting for pathway obstructions such as fixtures and aisles (which add to the foot travel distances) each of the extinguishers in the graphic is responsible for protecting 5,625 square feet. Remember, each five pound / 3-A fire extinguisher can only cover 4,500 square feet.

See the problem? You will have to purchase, install, and maintain additional 5 lb fire extinguishers to meet the square footage requirements.

Many stores struggle to meet the “75 foot rule” due to aisles, fixtures and locations of building columns. By relying upon only five pound / 3-A rated fire extinguishers a store may find it needs to install 30 percent or more five pound fire extinguishers just to meet the NFPA 10 Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers (i.e. the fire extinguisher code).

Yes, many national retailers are deficient in the quantity of fire extinguishers installed in their stores by nearly 30%.

So, “Why are we not making a five pound fire extinguisher?” Here’s the simple answer: if our customers with facilities classified as Ordinary Hazard Occupancy install our 10 pound / 4-A Oval fire extinguisher and follow the “75 foot rule,” they should never find themselves short of proper coverage. They don’t have to buy and maintain as many units to meet the requirement.

As an added bonus, Oval Brand’s patent pending button-hook is way more secure than other brands, as our extinguisher don’t easily fall off the hook when bumped into. We may introduce a 5 pound, 3A-40B-C rated, fire extinguisher in the coming year. However we will continue to emphasize that, particularly in retail stores, 10 pound fire extinguishers are the better choice.