"An awful surprise": Fire extinguisher recall ignites concern for firefighters

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) For those of you planning to do a lot of cooking at home for the holidays, you'll want to check one thing before you start.

Nearly 40 million Kidde fire extinguishers are being recalled, because they might not work or could even explode when you try to use them.

Action 2 News first told you about the recall when it was issued in early November, but firefighters are concerned people didn't pay attention. They say heading into the holidays is not a good time to find out one of these doesn't work.

"It's been a surprise, an awful surprise for a lot of people that are out there that think they have the safety net, and it's not working for them," says Green Bay Metro Fire Lt. Cody Johnson.

He didn't have a hard time finding one of those recalled Kidde fire extinguishers.

"My boss, our fire marshal's office... this was in his garage," says Johnson, showing us one the products he says was recalled.

Kidde recalled 134 models, made all the way back in 1973 through August 15, 2015.

Despite a 12-year shelf life, Lt. Johnson is convinced there are still a lot of these in people's homes.

Some, but not all, of the problem ones have plastic handles or nozzles.

"They were saying that these would break off, the whole part here would break off, or sometimes they wouldn't even break the seal and they would just not operate totally, so nothing would activate," he explains, pointing to the handle and nozzle.

Johnson says there's also concern they could cause injury. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says the recalled extinguishers can "become clogged or require excessive force to discharge and can fail to activate during a fire emergency. In addition, the nozzle can detach with enough force to pose an impact hazard.”

"Upwards of 300 pounds per square inch, so there's quite a bit of pressure in there," says Johnson.

We asked Lt. Johnson to test his recalled fire extinguisher.

He sets a fire using gas and diesel, simulating a grease fire common around Thanksgiving.

"So I'm going to give her a go here and see what happens," he says. "We pull out the little pin there."

Luckily, this one works.

But he says that really just provides a false sense of security.

"But now if it didn't work, all of a sudden the fire keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger," says Johnson.

He says you're tempting fate if you wait until you've got a fire to test it, since these are only meant to be used one time.

"There's no way to know that it doesn't work until you go to use it?" we ask.

"Until you go to use it, and usually by then, it's too late," he answers.

The CPSC says 16 people have been hurt and another person died in a car fire when an extinguisher wouldn't operate.

The CPSC also received nearly 400 reports of them simply not working.

To see if you have a recalled product, the CPSC says you should also check the model and serial numbers on the label, near the words "UL Listed."

There are 134 models on the recall, sold at several stores, including Menards, Home Depot and Walmart.

Consumers can go to Kidde.com to find the model numbers of the affected products and instructions for receiving a free replacement extinguisher if their fire extinguisher is affected. Unaffected plastic-handle fire extinguishers are a different design than those being recalled.

The CPSC says Kidde will replace recalled fire extinguishers for free. You can contact the company toll free at 855-271-0773, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET Saturday and Sunday, or online at www.kidde.com.

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