How Were Early Fire Extinguishers Constructed?


Quick Answer

The earliest form of a fire extinguisher was created in 200 BC by Ctesibius of Alexandria who invented a hand pump for fires. During the Middle Ages, a device called a "squirt" was created that looked similar to a bicycle pump. The squirt's nozzle was submerged into water and filled with about a liter of water, then pushed.

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Full Answer

In 1723, a chemist named Ambrose Godfrey patented the first automatic fire extinguisher that was composed of a cask of fire-extinguishing liquid and a pewter chamber filled with gunpowder. A fuse system was connected to the cask, which created an explosion of gunpowder upon ignition of the fuse system, resulting in the scattering of the solution inside.

In 1818, Captain George William Manby created the first portable version of the fire extinguisher using a copper vessel filled with pressurized potassium carbonate. In 1866, Francois Carlier of France patented a soda-acid extinguisher that contained a solution of sodium bicarbonate and tartaric acid, resulting in CO2 gas.

In 1881, Almon M. Granger patented a soda-acid extinguisher in the United States that relied on a reaction between sodium bicarbonate solution and sulfuric acid to release pressurized water. That same year, Read & Campbell of England invented a cartridge-operated extinguisher that used a water-based solution. Eventually, the company upgraded this version to a carbon tetrachloride model called the “Petrolex," which was primarily meant for use in the automobile industry.

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