The many and varied lives of fire extinguishers

28 12 2009

It all started with a shaft of light in a stairwell.

Glasgow August 2005

Real Modern Art

It was the blue light through the stain glass window at the Museum of Modern Art in Glasgow that first enlightened me to the artistic opportunities presented by the ever-present, but rarely noticed, fire extinguisher. Collected below are a number of examples from my travels.

Compton Verney May 2006

Floating extinguisher

The example above is also from a gallery, this time the one at Compton Verney in Warwickshire, possibly the most constantly interesting of small galleries I’m aware of.

Castaras September 2006

Dressed for the party

A very different type of fire extinguisher was found in a small bar, in an equally small village, in the Sierra Nevada mountains in Spain, one that appeared to have been witness to some rather wild parties.

Udaipur March 2007

Airport protection

Flying out of Udaipur after touring around Rajasthan I found this collection of well maintained extinguishers at the airport.

Bromsgrove July 2007

Cone of anti-fire

An historic version of a cone-type fire extinguisher was discovered at the Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings, a museum with an eclectic collection of buildings gathered from around the country and relocated to a field outside Bromsgrove.

Birmingham April 2008

Four in a row

The museum and art gallery in Birmingham has a very large number of exhibits, so numerous are they that much of the collection is stored in a warehouse. From time to time the warehouse is opened to the public and photography is positively encouraged, resulting in this picture of the extinguishers on the warehouse wall.

Birmingham October 2008

In Barbados

The next selection comes not from a museum but from The Rice Show an art event in a disused factory that was staged by Stan’s Cafe. The extinguishers are shown here with a small pile of rice, each grain of which represents a current member of the fire service in Barbados.

Corby June 2009

Sun on wood

We went on an architectural bus tour of Corby in Northamptonshire, organised by Fermynwoods Contemporary Arts mainly because it seemed so bizarre to imagine that the town would have anything worth seeing. We were wrong; it was a fascinating trip with knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides. The extinguisher here was found in the hall, which takes the position of the nave in traditional church design, at St Peter and St Andrew C of E church in the town.

Delhi November 2009

Two are ready

Which brings me to the most recent example, again in a stairwell but this time at the excellent Icon Villa Hotel in Vasant Vihar, Delhi.

My ever expanding set of fire extinguisher photographs can be found here.



    Some interesting miscellanea from Wikipedia

  • A fire extinguisher is an active fire protection device used to extinguish or control small fires, often in emergency situations.
  • The first fire extinguisher of which there is any record was patented in England in 1723 by Ambrose Godfrey, a celebrated chemist.
  • There are two main types of fire extinguishers: stored pressure and cartridge-operated.
  • A further variety of extinguisher – the Fire grenade – consisted of a glass bottle filled with the liquid that was intended to be hurled at the base of a fire
  • The modern fire extinguisher was invented by British Captain George William Manby in 1818.
  • The cartridge-operated extinguisher was invented by Read & Campbell of England in 1881.
  • Fire extinguishers are typically fitted in buildings at an easily-accessible location, such as against a wall in a high-traffic area.
  • Internationally there are several accepted classification methods for hand-held fire extinguishers.



— words and pictures by Paul

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2 responses

28 12 2009
Luke McGuff

I like photographing the thing everyone sees but no one looks at. They can be quite varied. When I first got serious about photography, I took lots of pictures of fire hydrants and urinals.

29 12 2009
Inversion Layer

One of the others on the Corby tour – a local architect – was also a photographer of toilets around the world!

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