FIRE SMART: Be aware of fire hazards

Look for any possible fire hazards and eliminate any opportunity of them ever accidently causing a fire

It is not uncommon for a fire department to get at least one or two complaints in a day regarding what people perceive to be a fire hazard.

Some definitely supply reason for concern and require immediate attention to avoid the possibility of a fire starting.

Others however, represent what we consider an elevated fire risk resulting from circumstances that take place on a normal basis.

They merely require us to be extra cautious to avoid the possibility of a fire starting.

Wikipedia defines a fire hazard as being any situation in which there is a greater than normal risk of harm to people or property due to fire.

This might be just a little too broad for our purposes and covers a lot of possibilities that could cause some people some undue worry.

It is really important to first understand the difference between an elevated fire risk and a fire hazard in order for us to determine how to reduce or eliminate them and whether or not we should be overly concerned.

Really, in order to discuss an elevated risk of fire and/or a fire hazard, we need to understand what it takes to start a fire. In performing fire investigation, we need to find three essential factors, in order to determine how the fire actually started.

First of all, we need to find something that will burn or a fuel. As well, the fuel needs to be in a state that it will ignite as a result of the presence of the next component, a source of ignition.

Finally, there needs to be a circumstance or reason that brings the fuel in contact with the ignition source and causes a fire to ignite. Clear as mud, right.

Let’s take a look at some examples and apply what I have just said to see if I can make it any clearer.

For instance a very common complaint is, “The long grass in the field next to my home is a fire hazard.”

Long grass occurs naturally and it is normal in the later part of our dry, hot summer for it to dry and provide a fuel that can be easily lit by a small ignition source.

When it dries, it burns vigorously, especially when it has been cut. However, it is the possibility of an ignition source being introduced in to this situation that really determines the fire risk and the degree of fire hazard.

Although the possibility of fire starting does exist in this case all the components needed to start a fire are not present.

People have to be conscious of the elevated fire risk and take the appropriate precautions so as to not introduce any means of starting a fire into this situation.

Granted there are possible natural sources of ignition such as lightning and birds hitting transformers but they are a normal part of the environment we live in and represent a small component of the fire risk we accept when living in the Okanagan Valley.

A fire hazard is more a condition that has a very high probability of all the components required to start a fire being present at the same time and causing a fire to take place.

An example of this is partially filled propane cylinders stored in a furnace room.

In this situation all of the elements needed to start a fire are present.

The pilot light in the furnace is a source of ignition and the propane gas in the cylinders is a source of fuel.

The circumstance bringing the two together will depend only on the amount of vapor that will be vented from the cylinders in the heat of the small room and how long it will take to fill the room to a point where it would reach the pilot light and ignite.

The possibility of a fire starting in this case is almost inevitable and without immediate intervention this situation will become extremely hazardous.

The good news and the real intent of this article is to emphasize that with the right habits developed towards fire prevention and some good old common sense we can provide the best defense in reducing fire risk and eliminating the threat of fire hazards altogether.

We need to accept that we live in a beautiful part of the country that offers wonderfully hot, dry summers and understand that by being fire smart and preparing ourselves for what we know will happen each year, we can reduce the risk of fire significantly.

In B.C., it is a violation of the fire code to knowingly create a fire hazard and it is a nothing less than a preventable tragedy to have your home burn down as a result of one.

I encourage you to take a moment and go through your home! Don’t gamble with the safety of your loved ones and your property.

Look for any possible fire hazards and eliminate any opportunity of them ever accidently causing a fire!

Please help us keep your home the safe place it is meant to be.

Lawrie Skolrood is a deputy fire chief with Vernon Fire Rescue Services.