First, he should raise the alarm. Only then should he consider fighting the fire. For a solvent fire, a fire blanket or powder extinguisher is generally best. However, the student needs to ask himself if the is comfortable fighting the fire. Fires are scary and dangerous, and nothing can prepare someone for being face to face with the real thing. The student should only attempt to put out a fire if he is comfortable doing so and has been properly trained. Raising the alarm is by far the most important first step whichever path he chooses to take.

Charles Harrison is a safety adviser at a UK university