15 October 2017

This is a "fire grenade"

"We found several of these old fire grenades in the attic of a large, old house in Edina [a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota]. It's a glass bulb filled with carbon tetrachloride, and was supposed to be thrown at the base of a fire to help put it out.

They were withdrawn in the 1950s because the chemical is toxic, and heat from fires can apparently turn the chemical into phosgene gas.
Found among the Fun home inspection photos from 2016.

Addendum:  Similar (but safer) products are still being manufactured and used.

Video of fire grenades being used.  The explanations I've seen about these tend to explain their efficacy as being a result of the gases produced, but I think not enough emphasis is given to the effects of the concussive explosion along as a fire-suppressant.

Reposted to add this photo I took at the Pine County Historical Society museum in Askov, Minnesota:

 Excellent museum, BTW...


  1. I liberated two of these from my grandparent's house. Mine have a frosted glass globe with clear carbon tet. They also have the original paper label with instructions for use and the original base with manufacturer's info. Neat, but as you indicate, impractical.

  2. I found one of these in the rafters of my parents' basement, right by where the boiler and laundry sink are. Antique stores might offer around $40 or $50 for one of these - but I mostly just didn't like them having a toxic ornament in the house.

  3. A similar product is sold today. It can be thrown, or just mounted over a fire-prone area to work automatically if a fird starts. Now non-toxic! Here is one version: http://www.elidefire.com/products.htm


    1. I did a quick search and found a lot of information available about modern fire-suppression grenades. This for example:


      Thanks for the heads-up, Chipper. I didn't know they were still used.

  4. The Jewett General Store in Vale Perkins still has a few of those in place. They are now for decoration rather than use, but they are still there.

  5. If you check the bracket they a mounted in usually has a low melting point alloy holding it closed so it automatically drops when there is a fire.

  6. You can see it in action as well:

  7. I have one hanging in my bedroom which looks like the one on the right in your picture of three, except the glass is red and has a Red Comet label on it. At first I wasn't sure if the glass or content is red, but looking closer there's an air space above the fluid so it's the glass.


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