Winter Fire Safety

The Hamilton Fire Department wants to help keep you and your family safe during the winter months. 

Winter Storm Safety Tips

In the event of a major snow fall, the Hamilton Fire Department would like to remind all citizens of some important fire safety tips:

  • Clear snow around fire hydrants to ensure clear access and to make them easy to locate by responding firefighters.
  • Make sure all exterior passageways, exterior stairways and fire escapes are clear of snow and ice, as required by the Ontario Fire Code.
  • Clear snow from around the vent pipes for your furnace and hot water heater.
  • Never warm up a car or snow blower by letting it run in an attached garage as carbon monoxide levels will build up and seep into the home.
  • If you use a portable generator during a power outage, only use it outdoors and in a location where fumes will not enter the building.
  • During a power outage use a flashlight or chemical light stick. If you must use a candle place it in a secure holder and never leave a burning candle unattended.

Heating Safety

Heating equipment is a leading cause of home fires in Ontario. Heating equipment includes fireplaces, fireplace inserts, woodstoves and chimneys.

  • Ensure woodstoves, fireplaces and fireplace inserts are installed by a qualified technician according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Have your heating system, vents and chimneys inspected and cleaned annually by a qualified service technician.
  • Keep chimneys and intake/exhaust vents for furnaces and heating appliances free of debris, ice and snow accumulations to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) build-up from inefficient combustion.
  • Burn dry, well-seasoned wood in fireplaces and woodstoves to reduce the risk of excessive creosote build-up in chimneys.
  • Allow ashes from your woodstove or fireplace to cool before emptying them into a metal container with a tight-fitting lid. Keep the container outside.
  • Always use a fire screen around the fireplace!
  • Keep space heaters at least one metre (3 feet) away from anything that can burn, including curtains, upholstery and clothing. Do not place items such as gloves and boots on or over a space heater to dry.

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Test your CO alarm using the test button to make sure the unit is working properly and so that all family members can recognize its sound.  Eliminate possible sources of CO in the home by making sure that all fuel burning appliances are properly serviced and maintained.

Also remember, if you need to warm up your vehicle in the winter, don’t warm it up by letting the engine run in an attached garage as CO can build up and eventually seep into the home.  Move the vehicle out of the garage, then warm it up.

Diagram of common sources of C02 in the home

Home owners are reminded that when clearing snow from driveways and sidewalks, it is important to also shovel an area around fire hydrants to ensure they remain visible and clear access is provided for responding firefighters.

Do you know what to do if a fire occurs in your home? Now is the time to sit down with all members of your family and prepare a fire escape plan.

  • Include all family members in the development of your escape plan
  • Determine two ways out of every room in your home. Teach everyone in the home how to unlock and open all windows and doors
  • Feel all doors before opening. If the door feels normal, open it with caution
  • Crawl low if you encounter smoke or heat conditions
  • Keep stairways and exits clear and free from storage
  • Have a specified meeting place outside of your home for all family members
  • Call 911 from a neighbour’s house or other safe area
  • Do not go back into your home for any reason. Once you are out, stay out

Don’t wait until tomorrow.... you never know when you may have to use it. Here’s how you can make your how home fire escape plan.

Home owners can prevent water pipes from freezing in unheated areas by wrapping them in insulation, opening a faucet to allow a small trickle of water to flow through the pipes, or opening interior doors to let heat from the house warm unprotected pipes in cold cellars or other areas.  To thaw frozen pipes, use hot water bottles, hair dryers or small portable heaters.  Never use an open flame to thaw a pipe.

Business and residential building owners should take similar precautions to ensure that sprinkler piping is not allowed to freeze.  A frozen sprinkler pipe will not allow a building’s sprinkler system to its job. There is also the possibility of sprinkler pipes breaking due to ice expansion.  Make sure that wet sprinkler systems are adequately protected, and dry sprinkler systems have had all water drained from them.

  • Replace worn or damaged electrical wires and connections on vehicles and extension cords and use the proper gauge extension cord for vehicle block heaters.
  • Consider using approved timers for vehicle block heaters rather than leaving heaters on all night.
  • Ensure that vehicles are not left running inside any garage or building. Move the vehicle out of the garage, then warm it up.