Typically, fire buckets are painted bright red and have the word 'FIRE' stencilled on them. Often they have a convex, protruding bottom, rendering them useless for other purposes, thus reducing the potential for theft or misuse.
Fire buckets are a low-technology method of fighting small fires. Although largely superseded by more modern forms of firefighting equipment, they retain some distinct advantages and remain the preferred method for fighting small fires in certain situations. The main advantages of fire buckets are that they are cheap, reliable, easy to use and can be quickly refilled and reinstated.
Normally, they are hung on dedicated fire bucket stands and placed in prominent positions in rooms or corridors, next to ovens or barbecues, and in government accommodation such as army barrack blocks. They are also commonly found in hyperbaric chambers.
Oil fires are resistant to water, but small fires can be effectively extinguished when the sand in the bucket is dumped on the fire to starve it of the oxygen it needs to stay alight. This method of fighting liquid fires has generally been replaced by modern foaming agents.
The sand from a fire bucket can also be used to absorb spills of flammable liquids and render them less dangerous, by reducing the risk of ignition and explosion. Fire buckets are often provided at petrol filling stations to absorb any small fuel spills.
- It is recommended that a steel bucket is used. If a plastic bucket is used, it may crack, warp or melt.
- The bucket should be well-labelled.
- The sand must also be cleaned of all flammable material.
- The act of throwing sand on a fire could cause it to be blown into eyes, causing irritation.
- If sand from a fire bucket is to be used as a suppressant for class D fires, the sand must be completely dry or the intense heat of the burning metal will quickly flash the moisture into steam, splattering the burning metal on surrounding material and the operator.
- Fire buckets are inappropriate for use with certain fires. They should not be used to extinguish burning magnesium, sodium, lithium, or other strongly reducing metals as these have the ability to strip oxygen from both sand and water, resulting in an even more intense fire.
Conical fire buckets in Moscow
- "Petrol Filling Stations Guidance on Managing the Risks of Fire & Explosion". Retrieved 2007-11-22.[dead link]
- Department of Energy. "Primer on Spontaneous Heating and Pyrophoricity". Archived from the original on 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2007-11-22.