Fire safety tips

Ways you can help prevent cottage and forest fires

By Jessica LewisJessica Lewis

Fire safety tips

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By August 2010, about 64 per cent of almost 900 fires were caused by people as well. These numbers are up against lightning, and aren’t included in the fires extinguished by municipalities. “Our numbers vary quite a bit per year,” says Bill Droog of the MNR. “But year to year, people are still causing a lot of fires. People still need to be more careful.”

So whether you prefer an outdoor fire pit, a fireplace, or a woodstove, making sure everything is safe and set up properly should be first on your list of to-dos before lighting any fires.


Use a designated pit

It’s safer to have recreational fires in an existing pit. If you need to make one, clear a five-foot circle of grass, branches, and other debris, leaving just the soil. Then, build your fire in the centre.

Find a clear area

Branches that hang over a fire area are a major hazard and can cause wildfire. Make sure that your pit is far away from anywhere a tree’s branch could sway into.

Keep water and a shovel close by

To put out a fire: dump water over it, then dirt. Repeat if necessary.

Never leave it alone

This is pretty simple: In order to keep everyone safe, never leave a fire unattended.

Obey Open Air laws

Your province may have laws restricting outdoor fires. In Ontario, a permit isn’t necessary for small fires, but between April 1 and October 31 the Ministry of Natural Resources has the right to ask that you to put out your fire. Check with your local municipal office or fire department for any additional laws or regulations.

Know that if you cause a forest fire, you’re responsible for the costs of putting it out and any resulting damage. Read Ontario’s Fire Code FAQ and the Government of Canada’s wildfire tips for more information.


Take care of your chimney

If you prefer to stay inside by a fireplace or woodstove with a cup of hot cocoa and a good book, then make sure that your chimney is in good shape. You can have it inspected by a certified chimney sweeper, regularly clear out as much ash as you can, and burn only well-seasoned wood.

Know your way around the fireplace or woodstove

It’s easier to maintain your fireplace or woodstove if you know what and where every piece of it is.

To clean out the fireplace’s chimney, know where the ash drop and ash pit are. The damper controls the chimney draft and also closes the flue when the fireplace is not being used.

For woodstoves, the hearth pad is the base, which shields the floor from radiant heat. The flue, if straight, heats the stove faster.

Keep a fire safety checklist

One of the easiest ways to be safe about handling all fires is to keep a checklist. It usually includes procedures, such as checking fire alarms and outlining a fire escape plan. You can download this checklist if you don’t already have your own.

This article was originally published on August 12, 2010

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Jessica Lewis