FIRE SMART: Winter the worst for fires

In the winter, we just spend more hours indoors participating in activities like keeping warm, cooking and entertaining

Along with preparing our vehicles for the snowy months ahead, it is also important to remember that winter is the worst season in Canada for fires.

In the winter, we just spend more hours indoors participating in activities like keeping warm, cooking and entertaining ourselves.

Unfortunately, these activities can all increase the risk of fire. Thus, fire prevention and safety become even more important at this time of year. With this in mind, here is a list of things to remember that will help keep you and your family safe from fire during the winter months ahead.

Heating appliances such as space heaters should not have anything combustible close by and need at least one metre (three feet) of space around them. Inspect the electrical cord attached. If it overheats, you have a fire hazard. Be sure to keep young children away from them.

Electrical and heating systems can fail and become fire hazards. Ensure they are regularly checked by a professional, especially prior to the winter season when fireplaces, heaters, appliances and other electrical equipment are in maximum use.

Smoking while in bed, tired or under the influence of alcohol or medication is the most common cause of fires that kill.

Use candles with care, out of the reach of children and pets and away from any flammable or combustible materials. Never let them burn unattended and make sure they are extinguished when they are not in use.

Most chimney fires occur with wood-burning fireplaces. Ensure chimneys are cleaned and professionally inspected regularly. Burn only small quantities of wood at a time. Use dry, well-seasoned wood in small amounts.

Always place the ashes in a metal container and take them outside of the house.

Keep small children away from fireplaces, stoves and inserts. These appliances should be treated with the same caution as hot range tops, ovens and clothing irons.

Physical barriers, such as adjustable safety gates in doorways, can be used to keep children, as well as pets, a safe distance away.

Teach children that fire is not a toy. It is a tool we use to cook food and heat our homes.

Educate your children about the dangers of fire and make sure they know that all fires, even small ones, can spread very quickly.

Never use a flammable liquid near a flame or source of spark. Be aware of hidden sources like water heater pilot lights, electric motors or heaters. Never smoke while pouring or using flammable liquids.

As with all heat generating appliances, fireplaces, stoves and inserts (and their surrounding material) will remain hot for a period of time

If even a small doubt exists about any appliance and equipment that you use, do not hesitate to contact a qualified technician. It may save your life, and the lives of your loved ones.

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