Fire danger increases in winter

Jacob Robinson

By Jacob Robinson, Simcoe Reformer


The weather outside might be cold, but area residents should keep in mind that without taking some precautions, things can heat up in a real hurry.

Fire Prevention Canada says winter is the worst season for residential fires. There are many reasons for this, but a few top the list.

“Winter is always a busier time for fire service across Ontario, across Canada and a number of the reasons for that would include the fact that we’ve got furnaces in full operation and fireplaces in full operation and oftentimes people aren’t taking the necessary precautions to get them serviced on an annual basis,” said Michael Atkins, Norfolk County Fire Prevention Officer.

“What we would remind people is, it’s not too late. If you haven’t gotten them serviced yet you can still contact a technician. It’s obviously at a heightened risk when we have these freezing temperatures (and) people are using their fireplace more than they might have earlier in December when the temperatures were higher.”

On the weekend, a Courtland woman suffered smoke inhalation and had to be evacuated from her home due to a chimney fire.

“People need to pay close attention to potential fire hazards such as fireplaces, furnaces, chimneys, space heaters and using open flames to thaw frozen water pipes,” Haldimand County Fire Prevention Officer Captain Alan Krajcir said in a media release.

Another reason for an increased number of fires during the winter stems from unattended cooking. Just because someone is hosting a party doesn’t mean they shouldn’t keep an eye on their food, said Atkins.

“Cooking fires, it doesn’t matter what time of year, are always a leading cause of home fires. Typically ... people throw food on the stove then go (to another room) to do their visiting with the family and they’re not paying attention to what’s cooking,” he added.

If you’re going to be lighting candles, which many do during a time of increased darkness, make sure they’re placed in a proper location, Atkins advised.

“People will often use this time of year as a chance to light candles and give a bit of ambiance... but they’re not necessarily using the candles safely,” he continued. “They’re not keeping them in places that they can’t be reached by the kids or won’t be knocked over by pets ... The big (thing) we’re telling people is when you go out, blow out — when you leave a room, blow out the candles (because) we see an increase in candle fires this time of year as well.”

The Haldimand fire department has offered a list of things residents can do to remain safe this winter. • Burn dry, well-seasoned wood in fireplaces and woodstoves to reduce the risk of excessive creosote build-up in chimneys.

• Use approved timers rather than leaving vehicle block heaters on all night.

• Never use propane torches or heat guns to thaw frozen water pipes.

• Keep intake/exhaust vents free from debris and ice/snow buildup.

* Keep space heaters one metre away from flammable items.

Ontario law requires the installation of smoke alarms on every storey of a home and outside sleeping areas. Carbon monoxide alarms are required outside all sleeping areas if the home has a fuel-burning appliance, a fireplace or an attached garage, said the release.