CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The Walker family was cooking french fries on the stove over the weekend when flames started getting out of control. "I'm not going to lie; it took a minute to realize that we had a fire," Elizabeth Walker said.
Her daughter quickly handed her the fire extinguisher. "I pulled the pin and it wouldn't work, I looked. It was empty, and I'm like, 'not good,'" she added.
Thankfully, there was another fire extinguisher in the house. Otherwise, the fire would have spread. Walker says the one that didn't work had been there for years.
"It didn't dawn on me to look at it. I'd never checked them. I knew it was in the corner but unless you need them you don't think about it," Walker said.
Bianca Sancic works for the North Charleston Fire Department and says the Walkers aren't alone -- most people never check their fire extinguisher even though the devices do expire.
"I'd say replace it every five years," Sancic said.
Homeowners should also check the gauge on the fire extinguisher to make sure its properly pressurized at least two times a year. Do it every time you change out the batteries in your smoke detectors.
And you can also just shake it back and forth and if it feels and sounds like a brick knocking around, that means the chemicals have probably congealed and its time to get a new one.
If there's a fire in your house you don't want to waste time reading directions. You've only got about 30 seconds from when the fire starts to be most effective, so its good to know in advance how to use an extinguisher properly.
First pull the pin, aim the nozzle at the fire, squeeze the handle and spray aiming at the base of the fire.
Knowing how your extinguisher works and making sure it will work can save your home and your life.
If it is bad, don't just toss it in the garbage. Contact your municipality and find out if you need to drop it off at a place where you dispose of chemicals or if you can just release the remaining pressure and then throw it out in the trash.