home fire prevention
home fire prevention

Home fire prevention: Tips to keep your home safe

A smoldering cigarette butt or a grease fire on the stove can spark an out-of-control fire within minutes. That could be why residential properties account for the largest number of fires in Canada, causing millions of dollars in damages, injuring residents, and even claiming lives.

There were 10,819 residential fires in 2021, according to Statistics Canada. The culprits? Cooking equipment, open flames (including cigarettes), and heating equipment continue to be the leading causes of fire.

Yet, data from the National Fire Information Database found that only 37 per cent of residents had a working smoke alarm, while 12 per cent had smoke alarms that didn’t activate. Plus, not everyone has a fire extinguisher—or they don’t know how to use it properly.

Household fire risks and prevention tips

Even if you escape from a house fire unharmed, you could be displaced for weeks or months. You could also lose your personal belongings, including heirlooms, artwork, or photo albums that can’t easily be replaced.

Here are five household fire risks you should be aware of, and some fire prevention tips to help keep you, your family, and your home safe:

Cooking

Kitchen fires are a top cause of home fires. The top cause of kitchen fires specifically is unattended cooking, according to the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs. Maybe you stepped away for a moment to answer the door, but in that moment a small flame turned into a much larger one. If you do need to step away, turn the stove off.

In a kitchen, you’re also at risk of grease fires. If that hot oil for your fried chicken ignites a grease fire, don’t throw water on it—instead, use baking soda, salt, or a fire extinguisher.

Be sure to clean stove hood filters, vents, and grease traps frequently. If you have a BBQ in your backyard, keep it away from walls and overhangs, and—like a stove—never leave a BBQ unattended.

Open flames

“Open flames,” such as cigarettes and candles, are another major cause of home fires. Avoid smoking indoors, and make sure cigarette butts are, in fact, butted out. Never flick a butt off your balcony or deck. Smoldering butts are a major cause of condo fires when they land on or near combustible material, such as peat moss, planter box soil, or balcony furniture.

Heating equipment

In winter, heating equipment such as space heaters, water heaters, and fireplaces can pose a fire risk. Improper installation, lack of maintenance, and carelessness (such as leaving a portable heater too close to combustible materials) are all culprits. Always have a qualified technician install, maintain, and inspect your heating equipment.

If you have a wood stove or fireplace, only burn dry wood (never pressure-treated wood) and ensure fireplace screens are in place to control sparks. Inspect and clean your chimney flues regularly, dispose of ashes properly and keep the firebox clean. Be sure to obey all clearance requirements, including storage of wood next to the stove.

Electrical equipment

Although not used in home-building today, if your home was built between 1965 and 1975, it probably has aluminum wiring. Aluminum wiring (as well as knob and tube wiring) could become a source of fire.

Consider upgrading your electrical system to current standards; if you choose to do an upgrade make sure that you use a licensed electrician for installation. Also contact a licensed electrician if lights in your home start flickering or changing intensity on their own.

Holiday decorations

Dried-out Christmas trees can become a tinderbox. That’s why it’s important that if you have a real Christmas tree to make sure that it’s watered regularly.

If you’re buying an artificial tree, look for a “fire resistant” label. Though not a guarantee, “it does indicate the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly,” according to the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs. Also make sure to use CSA-approved holiday lights, check for cracked sockets or frayed wires, and throw out any damaged sets.

Protect yourself and your property with insurance

Despite your best efforts and preparation, there are some things that you simply can’t control or prevent. Want to make sure that your home and personal property is protected against fire risks? Learn more by visiting our personal insurance page today!

This blog is provided for information only and is not a substitute for professional advice. We make no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information and will not be responsible for any loss arising out of reliance on the information.

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