In a recent study at Eastern Kentucky University, it was determined that an ordinary person, one who has not had any fire training background, can use a portable fire extinguisher with great effectiveness. However, the results improved further when the participants in the study were given some proper training regarding the proper technique.
The proper technique for the use of a portable fire extinguisher is:
Pull the pin from the fire extinguisher
Aim the fire extinguisher at the base of the fire
Squeeze the top handle or lever
Sweep from side to side until the fire is completely out
This study demonstrates how a person with proper training on the use of a fire extinguisher can be effective at extinguishing a fire in its incipient stages. Download a copy of this study here.