Fire chief tells cottagers to be vigilant after 2 people die in explosion

Leamington House Explosion Photo Credit: Steven Wilson (@A_Deputy_OFMEM)

A couple in their 60s was killed after an explosion at their cottage on Marentette Beach approximately 15 kilometres southeast of Leamington, Ont.

The cause of the explosion that killed Dianne and Dave Nadalin has yet to be determined, says Mike Ciacelli, Leamington’s Deputy Fire Chief, who attended the scene. The Ontario Fire Marshall is conducting an ongoing investigation into the cause.

While this kind of incident is rare, they do happen, which is why Ciacelli stresses how important it is to be familiar with fire safety measures, especially if you’re staying at an isolated cottage property where the fire department may not be able to reach you right away.

5 fire safety tips for the cottage

The first step in preparing your property is to have up-to-date smoke alarms. “Ontario law states that you need to have a working smoke alarm on every level of your home,” he says, including your basement.

As of 2015, Ontario law also states that you must have a working carbon monoxide alarm on each floor. However, it’s not enough to just install them, you need to know how they work. “You can get a provincial offences ticket for not having a working smoke alarm, or having a smoke alarm that’s outdated,” he says. You can even get a ticket for not having the alarm’s instructions. “The thing is when it chirps at three in the morning, and it’s beeping twice, you go ‘Okay, what does that mean?’”

The chirps and beeps could mean your alarms are expired. Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms last for a maximum of 10 years, even if you have an electrical version. After 13 years of living in his house, Ciacelli says he’s changed his alarms three times.

13 quick safety tips to prevent fires at the cottage

As for other measures, Ciacelli always advises having a fire extinguisher on hand. While it’s not mandated by Ontario law to own one, it could make the difference in preventing your cottage from burning down. “Make sure it’s in a place that you can get to,” he says. “A lot of people will keep it in the box that they bought it in, throw it under the sink, and then when they have a fire, they can’t get to it.” Instead, he suggests hanging it up somewhere in the kitchen. An apt spot, as unattended cooking is one of the leading causes of fires in Ontario.

The fire extinguisher you buy should be no smaller than a two-litre soda bottle. A good extinguisher to have on hand is a 2A/10BC fire extinguisher. The 2 means the extinguisher holds approximately two and a half gallons of water; the A means it is designed to fight wood, paper, and clothing fires, and the 10 means it can put out a fire 10 sq. ft. in size.

But make sure you take care of the extinguisher after buying it. Typically, they last for 25 years, but, he says, they need maintenance. “They need to be certified annually, which most people in the home do not do. They need to be taken apart every six years and have the agent inside—which is the powder— taken out, replaced, recharged, and have a special collar put on top of them. That indicates to us, the fire department, that it’s an older fire extinguisher.” If you haven’t touched your extinguisher in the last 10 or so years, Ciacelli says you’re better off buying a new one.

Cottage appliances that also need consistent maintenance are any heating and cooling equipment. It’s highly recommended to have your furnace, water heater, and dryer checked annually by a certified gas technician. This is particularly important for seasonal cottages, Ciacelli says, where you might shut down the gas and water for part of the year. When turning them back on, make sure they’re operating properly. If something’s off, you could be at risk of a carbon monoxide leak.

These measures are important to check even if you don’t own the property. If you’re renting a cottage for the weekend, the first thing you should do upon arrival is to make sure each floor has working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, an accessible fire extinguisher, and that all heating and cooling appliances are working.

Taking the time to check each of these could save your life. Approximately 100 people a year in Ontario die from fire-related incidents. That’s lower than the 90s when it was closer to 350, but still not as low as Ciacelli would like. “As far as fire-related incidents, we’ve done a good job with education,” he says, but “it’d be nice to get it down to zero.”

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