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Rifle businessman strives to keep people out of the hot seat

Lynn Burton

Ed Arnold’s sales pitch is short and to the point.

“Everyone needs a fire extinguisher,” said Arnold, owner of Tri-County Fire Extinguishers in Rifle.

“Nobody plans to have a fire,” he said. “The amount of damage that can be prevented with (a fire extinguisher) is tremendous.”

Tri-County’s retail outlet and office is located at 216 W. Second St. in Rifle. Every day, Arnold dispatches 10 employees from Vail to Meeker to Montrose to inspect and service fire extinguishers in businesses.

“Commercial extinguishers must be inspected annually, and for commercial kitchens every six months,” said Arnold, who holds a degree in mechanical engineering.

On the retail side, Tri-County sells all kinds of fire extinguishers to fight solid fuel, liquid fuel and electrically fueled fires.

Homeowners most commonly choose a multi-purpose fire extinguisher, and there are a few things they should know, Arnold said. The lesson doesn’t last much longer than the time it takes to put out a small fire.

First, the cost. Prices for multi-purpose fire extinguishers range from $15 for a 2.5 pound unit to $100 for a 20 pounder. Most homeowners go with a five-pound extinguisher, which must be recharged every six years.

The number of extinguishers a homeowner needs depends on house size, number of levels, and outbuildings and their uses.

After determining the number of extinguishers needed, placement is the next consideration. A little forethought can prevent a big mistake, Arnold said.

For one thing, extinguishers must be placed so the user can fight their way through the flames and out of the house if necessary.

Most times, the fire is smaller and can be fought to prevent its spread. This is where homeowners can make a big mistake.

“Don’t put the extinguisher under the sink, if it’s near the stove. You can’t reach it if the stove catches fire,” Arnold said.

It’s the same with a fire extinguisher placed next to a fireplace. If the fireplace catches fire or flames escape, the area might be too hot for a person to reach the extinguisher.

“Those are the most common mistakes,” Arnold said.

Arnold said monoammonium phosphate is the primary chemical in a multi-purpose fire extinguisher. To activate an extinguisher, the handle pin is pulled, then the handle is squeezed. A five-pound extinguisher can be completely emptied in 15 to 20 seconds, or turned off at any time.

“Aim at the base of the fire and sweep from side to side,” Arnold said. “People are really impressed with how much of a fire they can put out.”

Arnold said he hears almost daily of people using their fire extinguishers.

“Nobody brags about having a fire. They are usually embarrassed about doing something like leaving something on the stove or watching a log roll out of the fireplace,” he said. “We hear of car fires on a regular basis.”

Arnold and his wife, Annette, have owned Tri-County Fire Extinguishers for 16 years, and he said business is good. Annette is a civil engineer, and the couple bought the business five years after coming to Colorado to be ski bums.

Arnold has other fire related tips.

For stove top fires, he reminds people that placing a lid on a frying pan fire will put it out by depriving the fire of oxygen. Salt will put out a stove top fire, but putting flour on one is the last thing you’d want to do.

“Flour is a grain, so it’s flammable. It almost explodes,” he said.

Arnold is also big on smoke detectors, and keeping them maintained.

“A smoke detector can save a life. A fire extinguisher can protect property,” he said.

He said it’s gratifying to own a business where he can help people protect their lives and property.

For more information on Tri-County Fire Extinguishers, call 625-4533 or 945-0912.


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