Scott Springer pulled the pin on a fire extinguisher Monday morning and took aim at the base of the fire in front of him.
Springer quickly doused the flames as he squeezed the trigger, sending dry chemical powder onto the blaze.
He had several advantages: He had the extinguisher at the ready; he wore fire protecting gear; and he is an Altoona firefighter.
Altoona firefighter Scott Springer demonstrates how to use an extinguisher to put out a fire Monday
Unless a home occupant has quick access to an extinguisher and catches a fire in its infant stage, he needs to evacuate the home and call 911, fire and emergency officials recommend.
"This is your one and only shot. Make sure an alarm comes to us. Once you've used the extinguisher, leave the house," Altoona Fire Capt. Mat Dietrich said Monday.
Staying behind to fight a fire has been a problem for firefighters, especially for ones in Philadelphia.
Mirror photo by Mark Leberfinger
Altoona firefighter Scott Springer demonstrates how to use an extinguisher to put out a fire Monday in the parking lot of the Altoona City Council Chambers on Washington Avenue.
Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said that seven people in the city died this year because someone stopped to battle the flames instead of escaping and calling 911.
A small fire can quickly spread and overcome the person fighting it, Dietrich said.
It takes only five minutes for a small fire in a mattress or trash can to mushroom into a fully involved room fire, Dietrich said, referencing research done by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
If using an extinguisher, remember this acronym:
P: Pull the pin
A: Aim at the base of the fire
S: Squeeze the handle of the extinguisher
S: Sweep the nozzle side to side until the fire goes out or until the extinguisher runs out
Source: Altoona Fire Department
The same research found that the rapid ignition and burning of a dry Christmas tree in a corner can fully involve a living room in a mere 45 seconds.
A 2-pound household extinguisher doesn't fight much fire - one reason to not stay behind to fight a fire if it grows out of control, Bedford County Emergency Management Director Dave Cubbison said.
"Before they know it, there's not only a lot of fire but there are also poisonous gases and vapors to deal with," he said. "Folks are overcome by that."
At that point, what may seem like a simple task of getting out of your home becomes impossible because of the gases and a lack of oxygen, Cubbison said.
"We have people who are professionals - volunteers and career firefighters - who train to fight fire and can very quickly get to your house," he said.
Even if the fire goes out with the extinguisher, still call the fire department, Dietrich said.
"We have no problem coming to a home to make sure [the resident] did a good job," he said.