Preventing House Fires

Did you know that there are approximately 16,500 fires each year, a third of which occur in residential buildings? When a fire breaks out, there is very little time to react. To avoid losing your most cherished memories, here are some tips to prevent the worst-case scenario from happening.

Prevention based on your heating system

Most fires occur during the colder months, when increased reliance on electricity and heating can spark a massive blaze. That’s why it’s important to take the appropriate steps to fireproof your home.

1. Auxiliary heating system (wood, propane or oil)

If you have a wood-burning auxiliary heating system, there are a few recommendations to consider:

  • It should be certified and professionally installed.
  • You must make sure there is enough clearance between the heater and any flammable materials.
  • You should get it inspected by a professional and follow cleaning recommendations to ensure your heater is compliant and (most importantly) safe.

If you have a wood-, propane- or oil-burning heater, installing a carbon monoxide detector is essential. This will alert members of your household if there is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, which can be fatal.

Having a smoke alarm on each level is another great way to prevent house fires. Test your smoke alarms every month to make sure they work and replace the batteries twice a year. Here’s a tip to jog your memory: change the batteries when you change your clocks, in March and November.

2. Portable heating system

Your portable heating system should not be placed near flammable objects or any other ignition source. Plug it directly into an electrical outlet and don’t use it with an extension cord. Space heaters should be placed in a location where they won’t get knocked over. You should also avoid using an industrial heater as a permanent heating source, since it can break down when used for an extended period and set fire to your home.

3. Electricity

When it comes to electricity, there are a few things to keep in mind. Generally, it’s recommended that you leave 10 cm of clearance between electric baseboard heaters and any objects, furniture or curtains.

If you have a fuse box and/or aluminum wiring, have them inspected by a master electrician. It’s also important to never strip electrical wires and to ensure that they are properly secured.

Prevention in the kitchen

According to public safety statistics, half of all fires are caused by distractions and 28% of fires start in the kitchen. Here are a few tips to avoid any nasty surprises.

  • BBQ. Don’t forget to turn off the propane tank.
  • Cooking pots. Never leave your cooking pots unattended, particularly if you’re using cooking oil.
  • Fondue nights. There’s nothing like a good fondue with friends… but we know a few tablecloths that would beg to differ! Opt for gel fuel or an electric system rather than a liquid one.
  • Light them in a secure location and keep an eye on children and pets. Never leave a candle burning unattended.
  • Flammable liquids. These include cleaning products, which should be stored well away from heat sources.

General prevention at home

  • Unused objects. Put them away or throw them out, since accumulated items in a garage or room in your home could be a potential fire hazard. These objects could also block doors and windows that should be accessible if you have to evacuate.
  • Urethane insulation in the basement. Consider covering walls with drywall or specially designed fire-retardant paint. Although urethane is an excellent type of insulation, it’s also a highly flammable material that gives off extremely toxic fumes when it catches fire. Drywall acts as a thermal barrier and slows the spread of the fumes, giving occupants of your home a bit more time to evacuate.
  • Holiday decorations. Keep an eye on your Christmas tree! Make sure to turn off the lights at night and whenever you go out. You should also use lights that are specifically designed for this use.
  • Outdoor campfires. Make sure to set up your fire pit in a secure location and keep an eye on it at all times. Keep a safe distance from propane tanks and other flammable materials.
  • Smokers beware! Avoid falling asleep with a cigarette in your mouth or tossing your cigarette butts into your neighbour’s mulch. Also remember that potting soil can be highly flammable.

It’s always recommended to keep a portable fire extinguisher in a visible and accessible location. To be extra safe, you can always contact your regional fire department and request a courtesy inspection. The Red Cross also recommends making a family emergency plan. A template is available on the Red Cross website.

Filing a claim after a fire is no picnic — you’ve just lost treasured belongings and memories. Although you can never be truly prepared for this type of event, you can still take steps to prevent it from happening. We recommend that you contact your broker to make sure your policy meets your needs: is your policy limit high enough to rebuild and cover associated expenses such as debris removal, item replacement costs and additional living expenses?

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