Outside the cottage

  • Store fuel, firewood, and other combustible materials at least 10 metres from the cottage.
  • Keep roof and rain gutters free of dried leaves and pine needles. Install a screened cap on your chimney.
  • Keep firefighting tools (a bucket of water or sand, shovels, and a garden hose) handy when you’re having a bonfire or burning brush.
  • Keep barbecues clean, and be on hand when you’re using the stove or barbecue. “Cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the province, and often that’s unattended cooking,” Betts says.
  • If you allow smoking at the cottage, establish a safe smoking area with a sand- or water-filled can for butt disposal. Ask visitors to use the area and stub the butts out in the can.

Inside the cottage

  • Learn how your smoke alarms work and test them at least monthly Ontario’s Fire Code requires them on every storey and outside all sleeping areas. Regularly replace the batteries and replace the alarm itself every eight years. If you have a wood or fossil-fuel-fired appliance, or attached garage, install a carbon-monoxide alarm.
  • Develop a fire-escape plan. Designate family members who are responsible to help guests, people who may have trouble getting out on their own, and pets. Keep keys and cell phones in a handy place, so they can be found during a hasty exit. Once everyone is out and accounted for at a meeting place, call 911 or your local emergency number and report the fire.
  • Keep the local emergency number and directions to the cottage handy at a designated spot or programmed in your mobile phone. Make sure guests know it’s there.
  • Clean and check your chimney regularly. Maintain fuel-burning appliances.
  • Don’t leave candles burning unattended.
  • Install fire extinguishers in the kitchen, garage, boat house, and boat, and learn how to use them. Ensure they’re maintained and pressurized as per manufacturer’s instructions. (When fighting a fire with an extinguisher, always keep an escape route behind you.)
  • Ensure your address number is visible from the road. Consider ways to make your lane easier to navigate for large fire vehicles.
  • Properly dispose of ashes from wood-burning appliances. Put ashes in sand or mineral soil in a steel bucket (but don’t leave the bucket on the deck), then spread them and bury them or treat them like a campfire and put water or snow on them.