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How-To Geek

GEEK TRIVIA

In The Late 19th Century People Put Out Home Fires With?
Atomized Mercury
Seltzer Water
Fire Grenades
Brewer's Yeast

Answer: Fire Grenades

The word grenade conjures up the image of fiery explosions and carnage, but in the late 19th century, “fire grenades” were an early type of fire extinguisher used in homes across Europe and America. These grenades were called such because you threw them, like a grenade, into the fire in order to extinguish it.

Early fire grenades were glass bottles filled with a strong salt water solution. Later, the grenades were filled with a more potent salt solution, tetrachloride. More advanced models, introduced between 1900 and 1910, included racks that could be mounted over dangerous areas (like over a boiler) and featured heat-activated levers and stoppers that would pour the solution or drop the grenade automatically onto the fire if it broke out.

Although it was effective, the fire grenades fell out of favor because one of the side effects of the tetrachloride smothering the fire was a rather nasty burst of phosgene gas. Because the devices were both disposable (they were meant to be smashed into the fire when needed) but also made of ornate cut class to look beautiful when mounted in the home, old fire grenades remain a highly sought after collectible.

Today, the concept of the fire grenade lives on in the form of a portable fire suppression device that is cast into a room ablaze wherein a chemical reaction inside the grenade sprays a fine (but safe) mist of potassium particulate into the room (effectively stopping the carbon particulate from the fire from igniting). Like the fire grenades of yesteryear, modern fire grenades work best in small spaces.