National Home Fire Safety Week kicks off November 24th.

Fire Safety Tips to Protect Your Home

It's likely no coincidence that National Home Fire Safety Week (November 24th - 30th) takes place when the temperatures start to dip and we head into the winter season. After all, there's nothing better at this time of year than making a cup of hot cocoa, turning on your favourite movie, lighting a scented candle and relaxing by the fire. But this perfect cold weather plan can easily be ruined if you don't take the precautions to prevent a fire in your home.

According to Fire Prevention Canada, the winter is the worst season for fires in Canada. Candles, fireplaces, space heaters, ovens; all of these can lead to a fire if not tended to properly.

Protecting yourself and your home from any potential fire hazards means testing smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, replacing batteries if needed, reviewing a fire escape plan regularly with the family, and keeping a fire extinguisher handy. But it doesn't end there. Follow these fire safety tips around the home so you can roast your chestnuts without a hitch as we head into the holiday season:

Fireplace Safety

As nice as fireplaces are, they can easily become dangerous which is why fireplaces are one of the factors that go into determining your home insurance rate.

  • Chimneys should be cleaned at least once a year by a professional.
  • Never overload your fireplace. Use dry wood in small amounts. If using artificial logs, follow the instructions on the wrapper carefully.
  • Open the damper before lighting the fire, and keep it open even after putting out the fire until the ashes are cool enough to touch.
  • Never use charcoal starter fluids, gasoline or any flammable substance to start the fireplace.
  • Use a screen in front of the fireplace to prevent embers from flying and causing any damage.
  • Ensure the fire is completely extinguished before going to bed or leaving the house.
  • Do not leave materials like paper or wood or even Christmas trees and decorations too close to the fireplace.

In the Kitchen

If your holiday festivities include hosting a few dinner parties, this can translate to a lot of time spent in the kitchen where fires are kindled and can easily spread.

  • Check kettles, toasters and other appliances for damaged electrical cords.
  • Avoid wearing loose long sleeves while cooking.
  • Never leave the stove or oven unattended. Use the automatic oven timer or a regular egg timer to remind you when to turn off the oven or burners.
  • Never throw water on a grease fire or turn on the overhead fan as this will only spread the flames. Use a pot lid or thick wet cloth to smother the fire and turn off the heat.

Lighting Candles or Cigarettes

Candles and cigarettes can lead to a fire in the home. To avoid the risks that come with open flames entirely, use battery-powered candles for a similar effect.

  • Keep candles on a stable, level surface away from windows or high traffic areas where a gust of wind or a person or pet can knock it over.
  • Always ensure you've extinguished all candles before leaving the house or going to bed.
  • It's generally best to smoke outside, but if you smoke inside of your home, make sure to out cigarettes and dispose of butts properly in an ashtray. Fallen embers can smoulder undetected for as long as an hour and burst into flames again.

Holiday Decorating

While most artificial Christmas trees are fire-resistant, there are other fire hazards to be aware of when decorating your home for the holidays.

  • If you're buying a live Christmas tree, make sure that it is fresh and not dry - if needles are easy to pull off, that means the tree is too dry and a fire hazard. Keep it watered daily, and after the holidays, do not dispose of it in the fireplace. Many municipalities will designate a day to pick up trees from your curbside.
  • If you're buying an artificial tree, ensure it is truly fire resistant by looking for the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) label.
  • Check all electrical cords for damage before putting up your indoor and outdoor lights. And always unplug your lights before leaving the house, even if it is only for a short period of time.
  • Do not hang Christmas stockings from the fireplace mantel while the fireplace is in use.

The winter and holiday season should be a time of warmth and comfort, so take the time to protect your home from fire by following these tips, and finding the best home insurance to ensure you're financially protected in case anything goes awry.

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