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Fire Extinguishers

The Martha Stewart Show, October October Fall 2007 2007

According to the National Fire Protection Association, approximately 43 percent of the nation's homes have fire extinguishers. The International Association of Fire Chiefs recommends keeping a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, in the garage, and on each level of your home. Fire extinguishers should be kept in the kitchen, but 10 feet away from the stove.

Rattle and Bucket
The rattle and bucket fire extinguisher is from 1650, the time of the "Rattle Watch." At that time, people would contact others with this rattle by running through the streets alerting everyone to grab buckets and put out the fire. The rattles were used by the first organized fire force in New York City, where every family was required to have two fire buckets. The buckets were leather, made by shoemakers, and often decorated with the homeowner's name and address.

Hand Syringe
The hand syringe fire extinguisher required three men to work: A man on each side grasped the handle and nozzle, while the third man worked the plunger. The nozzle was immersed in water and the plunger drew it in and out. From 1666, the hand syringe was said to be used in the great fire in London.

Fire Grenade
The fire grenade fire extinguisher was made from the 1870s to 1910 and initially contained carbon tetrachloride, which was thought to vaporize and prevent combustion, although a few contain saline now. The fire grenade was thrown at the base of a blaze, and tended to work well to extinguish small fires.

Brass-Plated Extinguisher
The brass plated extinguisher is from the 1960s and 1970s. With a glass cylinder inside, this extinguisher has acid bottles in the top inside while the body holds soda-water solution. When turned upside down, the chemicals mix and the resulting reaction creates pressure which forces the liquid out of the hose (which was then at the bottom of the tank). Although quite effective, the brass-plated extinguisher was replaced by more modern designs and chemicals.

Modern-Day Red Fire Extinguisher
The modern-day red fire extinguisher uses powder and carbon dioxide to put out fires. Mass manufactured in the 1950s, it remains virtually unchanged today. Although the traditional red fire extinguisher has been an effective tool, it was developed and designed for commercial purposes and doesn't take into account the needs of a home.

The HomeHero
The HomeHero was designed by Peter Arnell in collaboration with one of the world's finest manufacturers of fire extinguishers, Kidde, a division of United Technologies. Designed as an appliance for the kitchen, the HomeHero works with its environment so people can keep it in plain site where they can quickly grab it in an emergency. Operated with one hand, this extinguisher has easy-to-read instructions that face the user.

Resources
The early fire extinguishers featured on the show (except the fire grenade, which is from Peter Arnell's private collection) are on loan from the New York City Fire Museum. The HomeHero is available at Home Depot.