Protecting your cottage from forest fires
Fire prevention tips to keep your cottage safe
Wildfire is part of the natural cycle of forest regeneration, opening mature stands of bush for new growth, killing pests, and in most cases, enriching the soil with a layer of fertile ash. Some tree species rely on fires to open their seed cones or prepare the ground for their seeds. For cottagers, of course, a forest fire that’s up close and personal is a less positive experience. If your cottage burns, it will not regenerate itself. Help keep your cottage safe with these fire prevention tips:
Wiener roasts and bonfires:
- Follow local burning regulations and keep up-to-date on fire bans in the area by calling the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) or your local municipality.
- Keep the fire small and away from other flammable materials.
- Attend the fire at all times.
- Have water and firefighting tools handy.
- Burn in the evening and after dark, when the wind has settled and the humidity rises, and extinguish before sunrise.
Around the cottage:
- Choose fire-resistant material when roofing or re-siding the cottage.
- Select double-glazed or tempered windows over single-pane windows.
- Close in eaves and screen soffits and vents to prevent embers from lodging and starting a fire.
- If you burn wood in a stove or fireplace, keep your chimney clean and use a screened chimney cap to catch sparks and embers.
- Maintain an open area around the cottage to create a firebreak. Bedrock, gravel, stone, or brick pathways, rock gardens, growing wildflowers, and green ground covers make good firebreaks.
- Avoid storing firewood or fuel against the cottage or beneath the deck.
- Keep overhanging conifers, small, dry twigs, and tall, dead grass away from the cottage. Green, actively growing grasses and flowers are more fire-resistant.
- Consider thinning trees so crowns don’t touch or overlap.
- Around the cottage, reduce debris, shrubs, and anything else in the forest understory that would allow the fire to climb or “ladder” into the crown, where it can become a fast and dangerous blaze.
- Fire walks downhill but rolls rapidly uphill, so pay particular attention to removing fire hazards in areas downslope from the cottage.
If you experience a fire:
- Keep the number of your local fire department handy, along with the forest fire reporting number for your province or area: in northeastern Ontario 1-888-863-FIRE (3473); northwestern Ontario 1-888-284-FIRE (3473).
- If you have a fire pump and think you can control the blaze, anchor the pump at a spot offering a reliable source of water and an escape route (such as a cottage dock); if things get too hot, follow the hose back to safety.
- An outdoor sprinkler system might be worth the price tag (around $5,000) if you’re in a frequently threatened area.
Girding for action:
- Never attack a fire without scouting the area for hazards ranging from downed trees and uneven ground to live hydro lines.
- If a fire is caused by a downed line, call your local utility and stay at least 15 metres away.
- Avoid applying a direct stream of water to a hydro line. If necessary, fight the fire defensively by keeping the area in front of the fire wet, to keep it from spreading towards the cottage.
This article was originally published on October 4, 2006