To be honest, as someone who has tried to fight a fire with an extinguisher, and as someone who liases with the fire dept. when they are called out to university properties, I can understand the logic at work in this decision.
Fire Brigade's number 1 priority is the preservation of life, both others and their own.
Property and possessions come a distant second.
A fire extinguisher will only be successfull against a very small fire, or one about to combust (smoking or smouldering material). Anything bigger than a waste-paper bin and you can pretty much forget it.
The risks inherent in using an extinguisher unsuccessfully are:
Being overcome by smoke/fumes.
Being 'circled' by fire and your exit route blocked
Being Burned to a crisp.
Long term lung damage.
The risks inherent to getting the f*ck out of dodge and leaving it to professionals are:
Wounded pride at not being a 'hero'
The inconvenience of Making an insurance claim
When we respond to fire alarms at work, all the brigade are concerned about is that the building had been evacuated. If they turn up at a dept and there are people in there, working on, under the presumption that it is a false alarm, they hit the roof!!
Same if they find out a 'hero' has gone to check the area before they have arrived.
People in burning buildings prevent the fire dept from tackling the fire itself, and force them to put their lives at risk.
When I was duty manager of the last healthclub I worked at, we had our sauna unit go up in flames- everyone evacuated, but me and the kitchen manager decided to 'give it a squirt' with the C02 extinguishers. Now bear in mind, from finding fire, to hitting alarm and people beginning to evac, to opening the sauna door, extinguishers in hand, was no more than 50 seconds. The heat was unbearable- we couldnt get close enough to aim the C02 at the source, and the increased oxygen from opening the door caused a blowback that took one of my eyebrows off!!
We both ran like hell, got outside and waited for the brigade.
More often than not, tackling a fire with an extinguisher is like turning up at a major RTA with a box of elastoplast expecting to save lives.
IF you find a fire, raise the alarm, and, if you want to be a hero, concentrate on ensuring all elderly, young, and disabled get out safe, along with yourself.
That will really
help the fire service.