"Whoa," our seven-year-old tester said, a full octave lower and lasting several seconds longer than her usual vocalization, after she figured out how to squeeze the lever and release a burst of halotron from the HalGuard fire extinguisher. The force from the initial burst pushed her back just enough to add to her excitement. We weren't so sure that teaching a youngster how to use one of these things was the right thing to do-it seems hugely counter to the smarter, 'See fire and run," but we used and abused her in the name of science. We wanted to see if she could follow the instructions on the side of the canister and whether she had the hand strength to work the lever. Why the focus on fire extinguishers? True, we don't get much trouble from Santa Ana winds, but given our use of fireplace inserts, habit of barbecuing in the garage, the street-salt-induced need for DIY auto-body repair, and love of chicken wings and deep fryers, fire happens. Peter Arnell, designer of the HomeHero extinguisher, tells us that people don't have fire extinguishers because they are ugly. But that doesn't quite fly, given the abundance of Rubbermaid waste receptacles and oversized 1990s-era refrigerators. Maybe people don't have fire extinguishers because they reckon they'll never use one, but then explain all the kitchen space devoted to untouched expresso machines and cookbooks. Wilatever the reason, it's ridiculous not to have plenty of fire-fighting units so we explored some.
H3R's HalGuard would make Tim the Tool Man proud and anyone else who finds comfort in chrome. The canisters are shiny and tough the way cars used to be and comes with a mounting bracket. Then there was the whole power-thing. It totally impressed us with a fast, far, and wide kick-out, looking mist-like for a split second before turning into a fog machine. But that's not even the best part of this extinguisher. The HalGuard is loaded up with a clean agent, something called Halotron 1 / HMS 1-0-1 (it's not like we really know what ammonium phosphate is, either) that doesn't leave a residue, is safe for paints and electronics, and easier to clean up than dry chemical agents. H3R promises that the extinguisher "will not conduct electricity back to the operator." We never even thought of the Three Stooges imagery associated with putting a toaster fire out with water and having a wall-based lightning bolt blow us out the kitchen windows, although kids would probably like it. Actually, all three of these extinguishers protect the user from electric shock. The HalGuard is rated for B (liquids) and C (electrical) fires, and A fires in the larger sizes. The 1 and 2.5 pound units will extinguish small A-type fires, but not effectively enough to make the grade-a trade-off for going clean and protecting electrical components. Prices for the HalGuard range from $105 to $265; visit www.H3RPerformance.com for more information.