Residential house fires continue to be one of the most common and destructive emergencies in Canada. In 2021 there were 10,819 residential fires, according to Statistics Canada. These fires resulted in 156 deaths and many more injuries, in addition to the devastating losses of homes and personal belongings. Tragically, many of these fires could have been prevented with basic fire safety and prevention strategies. According to Stat Can, 76% of house fire deaths occurred in homes that did not have a working smoke detector.
In this blog, we will discuss some of the steps that you can take to protect your family and your home from the life-shattering effects of house fires.
What Are The Leading Causes Of Residential Fires?
According to the NFPA, cooking is the leading cause of all residential fires, accounting for about 44%. Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas day are the peak days for house fires; fires are almost three times more common on these days than any other day of the year. Heating equipment such as portable electric heaters caused 13% of the fires, smoking caused 5%, and candles and electrical fires were amongst the other causes.
What Can I Do To Prevent Fires In My Home?
There are several NFPA approved strategies for fire prevention. We will discuss some of these strategies below.
Safe Cooking Practices
Because cooking accounts for nearly half of all residential fires, it is important to review safe cooking practices, especially if there are adolescents in the household who may be interested in learning how to cook.
Limit distractions: Many cooking fires are caused by distraction while cooking. It seems that in this post-pandemic era there are even more distractions at home than before. With many parents working from home and managing their workload in addition to homework, housework, etc. it is easy to become distracted while preparing meals. It is crucial to make sure that cooking is done when we are able to pay attention to the stove.
Maintain a clean workspace: Many kitchen fires are also caused by electrical issues; if water or other liquids are spilled on the counter and not cleaned up, it is possible for the liquids to make their way to cords or electrical outlets and cause a short or a spark. Making messes is part of the cooking process, but make sure that they are cleaned up promptly and be aware of electrical outlets and appliances that are nearby.
Keep the stove clear: Make sure to keep anything that could catch fire, such as oven mitts, wooden utensils, towels or food packaging away from the stove top, and ensure children know not to leave these items on or near the stove as well.
Electrical Safety Tips
Electrical fires account for roughly 6% of all home fires and 11% of all home fire deaths in Canada, so it is incredibly important to make sure that your electrical systems are up to date and that you are aware of electrical safety.
Update electrical wiring: If your house was built before 1990, it is important to have your electrical systems inspected and updated. Having aluminum wire in your house can be very dangerous and has led to many house fires. Aluminum wire can lose contact with connection points which can cause arcing, melting and fires. It is banned from use because of this, but many older homes still have some aluminum wires, so we recommend finding out what type of wiring is in your house and updating it if necessary.
Use caution with electrical appliances: Do not leave your laptop on combustible surfaces such as a couch, bed, pillow, etc., make sure the outlets in your home can handle the power required to run your appliances, check for government recalls on appliances that you may have purchased that do not meet Canadian safety requirements, use multi-outlet and power bars sparingly, hold plugs securely when pulling out of the wall, do not use multiple extension cords.
More Fire Prevention Tips:
Test your fire alarm system every month to make sure each smoke detector is working properly
Keep working fire extinguishers on each floor of your home
Store gasoline, fuel and other chemicals in proper storage containers in a secure, dry location away from heat
Make an evacuation plan and ensure everyone in your household is familiar with it
Instruct everyone in your household on fire prevention strategies as well as how to put out different kinds of fires
How To Put Out Different Kinds Of Fires:
Electrical fires: do NOT use water! Water is a conductor and can electrocute you if you pour it on an electrical fire.
Smother small fires with baking soda, or use a class C or ABC fire extinguisher for larger fires.
Grease fires: do NOT use water! This could cause the grease to explode and spread the fire even further. Instead, try to smother the fire by either placing metal lid on it, pouring baking soda on it, or use a class B fire extinguisher.
Flammable liquids: such as gas, alcohol, paint, or propane, put a blanket on the fire to smother it, or use a class B fire extinguisher
Make A Fire Escape Plan
We recommend creating a fire escape plan, and making sure that everyone in your household is aware of the plan. It is also a good idea to do fire drills a couple times a year. The NFPA has a great resource for fire escape planning
Now that we’ve identified fire risks and discussed fire prevention strategies, one more thing to do is to ensure that you have adequate insurance to protect your property and belongings in the worst case scenario. If you are unsure about your fire coverage, feel free to reach out to one of our brokers. We would be glad to review your policy to make sure that you are protected.