Home Fires on the Rise Due to COVID-19 Lockdown

Tips to stay safe while at home during the pandemic.

Everyone is home for the long haul, and now that we’ve been in lockdown for close to two months one thing has become abundantly clear from a home insurance (condo or tenant insurance) standpoint: We all could use a fire safety refresher course.

The Toronto Star reports that a variety of cities in Ontario are seeing a spike in calls for fire help due to residential fires. In Toronto, specifically, fire calls were up 17% in the first few weeks of the lockdown compared to the same time last year. Since then the city has taken to social media to remind residents of safety precautions that should be made, and this growth in incidents has decreased to 7%. It’s still more than usual, however.

Toronto is not alone. Officials in Brampton, Oshawa, and Vaughan have also noted increases in fire calls. It’s likely safe to assume this trend is happening Canada-wide in provinces that are still in lockdown.

“What I’ve noticed is there are a lot of small incidences — washing machines, rubbish fires, hot water heaters, people cooking stuff, dryer vents — because everyone is home,” said Oshawa’s Fire Chief Derrick Clark to thestar.com. “A lot of small fires, fires originating maybe from wires in attics or things like that … things that are overheating.”

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Minimize your Risk of Fire with These 16 Home Fire Safety Tips

According to Toronto’s Fire Chief Matthew Pegg, the two leading causes of fire in the city are due to careless smoking and unattended cooking. With this in mind, we’ve scoured the department’s Twitter feed for fire safety tips and will start with:

  1. If you smoke, smoke outside of your home, if possible
  2. Never smoke in bed
  3. Dispose of cigarettes in a proper receptacle (that’s filled with water or sand) or an ashtray that is sturdy and deep
  4. Never put your cigarettes out in a potted plant or garden
  5. Never flick your cigarette butts out the window or off your balcony
  6. Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children
  7. Only pots and pans should be on your stove top. When cooking, keep your oven mitts, dish towels, wooden utensils, cookbooks, and food packaging away from the stove top. Your cooking area should not be cluttered with flammable items
  8. Never leave your kitchen (or your home for that matter) when frying, boiling, grilling, or broiling food
  9. If barbequing, never leave your grill unattended and give it a three-foot safety zone away from your home’s siding, fence, or lawn furniture
  10. Watch what you wear because loose clothing can easily catch fire when cooking. And, if your hair is long, tie it back while working over the stove
  11. Use timers to remind you when to turn off the oven or burners
  12. Never leave candles burning unattended and avoid having them altogether in your sleeping spaces or bathroom
  13. Extinguish your candles when you leave the room, house, or go to bed
  14. Plug large appliances, or cooking appliances (including microwaves), into wall outlets, not an extension cord. Extension cords are for temporary use only
  15. Inspect the cables of everything you’ve got plugged in. If any of them are cracked, loose, or damaged replace the item
  16. Always charge your smartphone, laptop, and other devices on a hard surface. Charging devices on a bed, couch, or upholstered chair (i.e. soft surfaces) can be a fire hazard

And, since most of us have some spare time on our hands these days, there’s no better time than now to:

  1. Install detectors on every level of your home, in each sleeping room, and outside of sleeping areas
  2. Test your existing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors monthly and vacuum them to ensure they’re clean
  3. Create a home fire escape plan. Draw a floor plan of your home showing all possible exits from each room and plan an escape route, plus an alternate, for each. Decide on an agreed-upon meeting place

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