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We are all too aware how serious the fire season is in British Columbia. The stats are showing an earlier start to the wildfire season with larger out-of-control fires. In June 2023 many people have been evacuated from their homes due to forest fires raging out of control. Protecting your home from fire is crucial for the safety of you and your loved ones. There are many fire prevention strategies homeowners can put in place to help mitigate a catastrophe.

Residential properties can be at threat for both fires from within the home and the external threat from wildfires.

Top 10 fire hazards for a home

According to Readers Digest Canada, the ten most common causes of house fires are:

1. Cooking equipment
2. Heating equipment
3. Careless smoking
4. Electrical equipment
5. Candles
6. Inadequate wiring
7. Children playing with fire
8. Flammable
9. Christmas tree decorations and trees
10. BBQ

Fire safety strategies

Install smoke alarms: Ensure that you have working smoke alarms installed on every level of your home, including inside and outside sleeping areas. Test them regularly and replace batteries as needed.
Plan and practice escape routes: Develop a fire escape plan that includes multiple escape routes from every room in your house. Practice the plan with your family so that everyone knows how to evacuate safely in case of a fire.

Invest in fire extinguishers: Place fire extinguishers on each floor of your home, especially in the kitchen and near fire-prone areas. Learn how to use them correctly and ensure they are easily accessible. If you have frequent guests, show them where and how to use your fire extinguishers.

Follow cooking safety: Never leave cooking unattended, especially when using stovetops or ovens. Keep flammable materials away from the cooking area and have a fire extinguisher nearby. Remember that grease fires do not like water. Turn off the heat source and smother the fire with a metal lid or baking soda.

Electrical safety: Inspect your electrical cords and replace any frayed or damaged ones. Avoid overloading outlets and use surge protectors where necessary. Unplug appliances when not in use and turn off electrical devices before going to bed.

Heating safety: If you use space heaters, keep them at least three feet away from anything flammable, such as curtains or furniture. Make sure they are placed on a stable surface and turn them off when leaving the room or going to sleep.

Smoking safety: If you smoke, do so outdoors in a safe area away from the house and dry timber. Always fully extinguish your cigarette butts in designated containers and douse with water. Never smoke in bed or when drowsy.

Candle safety: Use candles with caution and keep them away from flammable materials. Always blow them out before leaving a room or going to sleep. Consider using flameless candles as a safer alternative. Our recommendation is if you have children in the house, do not use candles.

Proper flammable storage: Store flammable liquids, such as gasoline, paint thinners, or propane, in a well-ventilated area away from the house. Keep them in approved containers and follow the recommended storage guidelines. Discard immediately according to local environmental disposal rules.

Regular maintenance: Keep your home well-maintained to reduce fire hazards. Regularly clean your dryer vents, chimney, and gutters. Replace or repair any damaged electrical wiring or appliances. Do not hoard or keep excessive paper, boxes, or other debris that can easily burn.

Clear escape routes: Ensure that all doors and windows can be easily opened in case of an emergency. Avoid blocking escape routes with furniture or other obstructions.

Educate your family: Teach your family members about fire safety and the importance of acting quickly in case of a fire. Make sure everyone knows how to dial emergency services and where to meet outside the house after evacuation. Taking precautions can help protect your home from fire.

Cooking (and equipment) is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries.

Preventative measures for risk of wildfire damage

Protecting your home from wildfires requires additional measures due to their unique nature. Here are some tips to help protect your home from wildfires:

Create defensible space: Clear vegetation and flammable materials from around your home to create a defensible space. Remove dry leaves, dead plants, and debris from your yard, gutters, and roof. Maintain a distance of at least 30 feet between your home and flammable vegetation.

Choose fire-resistant materials: When constructing or renovating your home, choose fire-resistant materials such as metal, concrete, or fire-resistant roofing materials. Avoid using wood or vinyl siding and consider installing fire-resistant windows.

Manage vegetation: Regularly prune trees and shrubs, keeping branches at least 10 feet away from your chimney and 15 feet away from your home. Trim trees near power lines and remove dead vegetation.

Maintain a Firebreak: Create a firebreak by clearing an area of at least 30 feet around your home. Use non-combustible materials like gravel, rocks, or concrete to create a separation between your home and vegetation.

Secure decks and patios: Clear leaves and debris from your deck or patio regularly. Use non-combustible construction materials and consider enclosing the area underneath to prevent embers from collecting.

Install spark arrestors: Install spark arrestors on chimneys, stovepipes, and vents to prevent sparks and embers from entering your home. Use mesh screens with openings no larger than 1/8 inch to cover vents and openings.

Keep emergency water supply: Have a sufficient water supply available, such as a well-maintained swimming pool, pond, or water storage tank. Install hoses that can reach all sides of your home for firefighting purposes.

Install fire-resistant fencing: Use fire-resistant materials for fences, such as metal or masonry. Avoid wooden fences, which can easily catch fire.

Close openings: Close all openings in your home, such as windows, doors, and vents, with non-flammable materials like metal screens or boards during a wildfire threat. This helps prevent embers from entering your home.

Stay informed: Stay updated on wildfire alerts and evacuation orders in your area. Have a battery-powered radio or smartphone app to receive emergency notifications. Follow the instructions of local authorities and be prepared to evacuate if necessary.

Prepare an emergency kit: Assemble an emergency kit with essential supplies such as food, water, medications, important documents, and a first aid kit. Keep it easily accessible in case of a rapid evacuation.

Create a family emergency plan: Develop a family emergency plan that includes communication strategies, meeting points, and evacuation routes. Practice the plan with your family regularly.

Remember, wildfires can be unpredictable and dangerous. If authorities issue evacuation orders, prioritize your safety and follow their instructions. Your home can be rebuilt, but lives cannot be replaced.

Don’t forget that prevention is key. By implementing these fire safety measures and remaining vigilant, you can significantly reduce the risk of a fire in your home and protect your loved ones.

Resources – protect your home from fire:

BC 221: BC Wildfires 2023

BC Government: Fire smart manual

Government of Canada: Fire safety in your home

Red Cross: House fires information

Reliance Insurance: Recipe for bbq grilling safety

Banner photo courtesy: Photo by Marcus Kauffman on Unsplash

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