Keep the home fires burning, safely

Oak Bay Fire offers tips for fire prevention

Oak Bay Fire Capt. Rob Kivell recommends a carbon monoxide detector

With three preventable fires in 10 days to start December, the Oak Bay Fire Department warns residents to take precautions as winter falls.

“People are starting to use their heating appliances more,” said Capt. Rob Kivell, with Oak Bay’s fire prevention division.

Those heaters, fireplaces and furnaces introduce a risk not faced during warmer weather.

There are some key tips to keep in mind, for example, make sure fireplaces or furnaces get inspected once a year. Space heaters are infamous for causing fires this time of year, so get one that’s approved with ULC or CSA listed.

“Check for frayed cords and it’s really important not to overload electrical circuits,” Kivell said.

When buying a new space heater, make sure it has the label showing it is listed by a recognized testing laboratory. Be sure to have fixed space heaters installed by a qualified technician, according to manufacturer’s instructions or applicable codes. Or make sure a qualified technician checks to see that the unit has been properly installed.

“The big key [for space heaters] is clearance for combustibles,” Kivell said, adding a good rule of thumb is to keep anything one metre from the heaters.

“Look at the installation instructions … radiant heat can actually ignite something,” Kivell said. “Never leave space heaters unattended.”

Portable space heaters should be turned off every time you leave the room and before going to bed.

People want to use candles as decor this time of year, and that’s fine, Kivell said, but remember to be cautious.

“You have to be around them all the time, they’re unpredictable,” he said.

In the three fires Oak Bay Fire attended late last month and early this month, all three homes had working smoke detectors that were the first indicator of a problem. The fire department suggests installing smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. For the best protection, interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound. Test smoke alarms monthly. Many are manufactured with another alarm they recommend.

“All gas and wood appliances give off monoxide, make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detecter in your home,” Kivell said. “We do recommend homes have a carbon monoxide detector near sleeping rooms.”

With trees dominating household holiday decor, the fire captain reminds residents to also carefully maintain trees for safety. Purchase an artificial tree that is fire retardant. If going for a fresh tree, choose one with green needles that don’t easily fall off. Before placing the tree, cut one to two inches off the bottom of the trunk and make sure to add water to the basin daily. Place the tree a minimum one metre from heat sources and make sure it doesn’t block an exit. Replace lights that are loose, or have worn cords. Always turn the tree off before leaving the home or going to bed.

“We’re hoping for a safe Christmas this year. It’s always a tense time for us here,” Kivell said. “We ask people just to be a little more cautious this time of year.”

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