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Fire Protection History Lesson 1


Fire grenades were an early type of fire extinguisher that originated in England in the early 1800's.

Glass fire grenades became popular in the United States about 1870. The fragile glass spheres were hurled at the base of a fire.

While some contained merely salt water, others were filled with carbon tetrachloride (CTC), a more effective fire suppressant suitable for both liquid and electrical fires.

Early glass fire extinguishers were quite decorative and have become collectors' items. (Not like the ones pictured here)

Between 1900 and 1920, fire grenades resembling light bulbs, like our mystery artifact, were housed in a metal bracket and designed to he hung up. When the grenades fusible link melted, a spring would cause a metal arm to shatter the grenade and release the contents.

Melt point was about 160 degrees for house grenades and 250 degrees for auto grenades, to account for engine heat.

The company that made the Spanaway Historical Society's Red Comet grenade began making them in 1919 in Denver.

The grenades came in a set of 6 or 8 in a metal container. The carbon tetrachloride that was used in the grenades is toxic, with high concentrations causing nervous system and internal organ damage.

In fact, when thrown on a fire, the heat can convert CTC to phosgene gas, a chemical used in WWI. So all CTC filled extinguishers were removed from the market in the 1950's.

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