The holidays can be one of the most dangerous times of the year for home fires. Follow the important fire safety tips below to help keep you and your family safe during the holiday season.
Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Alarms
- Ensure there is a CSA-approved working smoke alarm installed on every level of your home and outside all sleeping areas according to the manufacturer’s directions.
- Test your smoke alarms monthly to ensure they are working. Replace any faulty smoke alarms. Also replace any alarms that are 10 years old or older.
- Install carbon monoxide (CO) alarms on each floor of your home that has bedrooms or sleeping areas, according to manufacturer directions.
- Test CO alarms monthly.
- Replace any CO alarm more than seven years old.
- To reduce the risk of CO exposure, ensure your natural gas appliances are properly installed, maintained and inspected by a licensed gas contractor.
- Ensure a fresh air supply into your home if using a fireplace or wood stove.
- Also check your outside vents throughout the year to remove any snow or ice build-up.
- Cooking is one of the leading causes of fire. Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking. If you must leave, turn off the stove.
- Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, paper towels, wooden utensils, packaging, etc. — away from your stovetop.
- Remember to drink responsibly during the holiday season as impairment can cause poor judgement when cooking.
- Have a one metre “kid-free zone” around your stove to prevent accidental burns.
- If grease in a pot or pan catches fire, smother the flames by covering the pan with a lid, then turn off the heat. NEVER throw water on a grease fire. If you are unable to put out the fire, get everyone out of the house and call 911.
Safe Use of Holiday Lights
- Indoors or outside, always use CSA approved lights. Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets.
- Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord.
- Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
- Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples, not nails or tacks, to hold strings in place. Or, run strings of lights through hooks (available at hardware stores).
- Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
- For added electric-shock protection, plug outdoor electric lights and decorations into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold. GFCIs can be installed permanently to household circuits by a qualified electrician.
- Christmas Tree Safety Tips
- When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label "Fire Resistant." Although this label does not mean the tree won't catch fire, it does indicate the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.
- When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green; needles are hard to pull from branches and when bent between your fingers, needles do not break. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
- If you are using a real tree this season, trim its base and always keep the base of the trunk in water. Improperly cared-for trees can quickly ignite.
- When setting up a tree at home, place it at least one metre away from any ignition sources such as candles, fireplaces and radiators. Because heated rooms dry live trees out rapidly, be sure to keep the stand filled with water (check daily). Place the tree out of the way of foot traffic and do not block doorways.
- Tree disposal after the holidays: When you’re ready to get rid of your tree, please do not burn it in the fireplace or wood stove. The rapid burning and excessive heat can damage the firebox and chimney creating a serious fire hazard. Instead, find out from your municipality the day when trees will be picked at your curbside. Many municipalities recycle Christmas trees into mulch.
Safe Use of Extension Cords
- Buy only CSA-approved extension cords. Only use an extension cord as a temporary connection.
- If an extension cord is being used outdoors, ensure it is rated for outdoor use.
- Before using, check your cord and plug-in for damage. Throw out any faulty cords.
- Cords should never be placed under carpets or area rugs.
- Test your smoke alarms and tell guests about your home fire escape plan. Ensure they are aware of all exits in your home.
- Keep children and pets away from lit candles.
- Keep matches and lighters up high in a locked cabinet.
- Stay in the kitchen when cooking.
- Ask smokers to smoke outside. Remind smokers to keep their smoking materials with them so young children do not touch them.
- Provide large, deep ashtrays for smokers. Wet cigarette butts with water before discarding.
Home Escape Plan
- Be responsible for your family’s safety. Develop and practice your home fire escape plan with all members of your household at least once a year. Provide help to younger children or older adults who may need assistance to evacuate. Tell any guests about your home fire escape plan and ensure they know all exits in your home.
- Plan two ways out of your home from every room so you can still leave quickly in the event one route is blocked by fire.
- Designate a spot outside where all family members will gather after evacuating.
- Do not remove fireplace embers or ash, or if you do, place them in a metal container with a lid and cover them with water. Do not place them in a plastic or paper bag or any other container that is not fire-resistant. Do not dispose of them indoors or close to your home or another structure.
- Use care with "fire salts," which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. They contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if eaten. Keep them away from children.
- Never burn gift wrappings, boxes, cartons, or other types of packing in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite rapidly and burn intensely, generating far too much heat.
- Don't hang Christmas stockings or other low hanging decorations from the mantel when the fireplace is in use.
- Always use a screen in front of the fireplace to protect against flying sparks.
- Never use gasoline or any other flammable liquids to start a fire.
- Use only seasoned and dried wood.
- Never leave the fire unattended or let it smoulder.
- Clean the ashes regularly. Place the ashes in a metal container and store outside away from flammable materials.
- Don't use Christmas trees for firewood.
Responsible Drinking and Cannabis Use
- Impairment includes drinking alcohol, taking prescription drugs or cannabis use.
- Cooking while impaired can cause poor judgement, resulting in a higher risk of fire.
- Make sure you plan ahead to have a designated driver, arrange for a cab or other alternative transportation.
- Extinguish candles when leaving the room or going to sleep. Keep lit candles away from items that can catch fire
- Place candles in sturdy, burn-resistant containers that won’t tip over and are big enough to collect dripping wax.
- Don’t place lit candles near windows, where blinds or curtains may close or blow over them.
- Don’t use candles in high traffic areas where children or pets could knock them over.
- Never let candles burn out completely. Extinguish them when they get to within two inches of the holder or decorative material.
- Never leave children or pets alone in a room with lit candles.
- Do not allow older children to light candles in their bedrooms. A forgotten candle or an accident is all it takes to start a fire.
- During power outages, exercise caution when using candles as a light source. Many destructive fires start when potential fire hazards go unnoticed in the dark.
- Never use a candle for light when fuelling equipment such as a camp fuel heater or lantern.
- Keep candle wicks short at all times. Trim the wick to one-quarter inch (6.4 mm).
- Be wary of buying novelty candles. Avoid candles surrounded by flammable paint, paper, dried flowers, or breakable/meltable containers.
- Extinguish taper and pillar candles when they burn to within two inches of the holder, and container candles before the last half-inch of wax begins to melt.
- When buying or using novelty candles, try to determine if they pose a potential fire hazard (if they contain a combustible component for instance). If they do, or if you suspect that they might, inform your local fire department.
- Use extreme caution when carrying a lit candle, holding it well away from your clothes and any combustibles that may be along your path.
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