Celebrate Safely & Be Fire Smart This September Long
The September long weekend has long been used as a time to celebrate the last precious days of summer with friends and family. Whether you’re planning on a weekend full of visitors at the cottage or relaxing at home, we have bonfire and barbeque fire prevention tips to help keep you safe while you’re enjoying the last official weekend of the season.
Fire pits and outdoor fireplaces are an increasingly popular feature of both rural and urban yards. A toasty fire adds ambiance to a cool evening and can extend the use of your backyard beyond summer and into autumn. But, open fire of any kind requires attention to safety. Here we’ve outlined a few fire safety tips that we’ve gathered to help keep your long weekend fun and fire smart.
Watch for burning restrictions
Fire Safety Tip #1: One of the most important things to check before lighting a bonfire or outdoor fireplace is whether there is a municipal fire ban in your area. Fire bans are put in place when regions are dealing with a lack of rainfall and conditions are dry, meaning that fires can spread even more rapidly than when conditions are considered ‘normal’. Government websites are a great resource for determining when a fire ban is active in your area. Bookmark the websites below on your phone for quick access to fire restriction information on the go (e.g. when you’re on the way to the lake). For Manitoba residents, click here. For Saskatchewan residents, click here. For Ontario residents, click here.
Find the right spot for an open-air fire
Fire Safety Tip #2: Whether your fire pit is located at your home or at the cottage, it should be installed on a level surface made of stone, concrete or brick that is at least 10 feet away from your house, overhanging trees or anything combustible. Check with your municipality for any by‐law requirements for approved use before using a fire pit or chiminea on your property.
Fire Safety Tip #3: Always burn clean, dry, and unpainted wood. Scraps of wood, especially those from inside your home, have likely been treated with chemicals that can create unhealthy (and unpleasant smelling) fumes for you and your guests when burned. To prevent sparks from flying, make sure logs fit completely within the fire pit’s diameter.
Start the fire slowly
Fire Safety Tip #4: Never use lighter fluid or gasoline to start a fire. Build the fire slowly so that you remain the one in control and remember that oxygen and wind can cause a fire to grow very quickly. Open fires should always be supervised by someone 18 years of age or older and never left unattended, even if only for a few minutes.
Fire Safety Tip #5: Typically, the best and safest time for a bonfire is during the evening. Wind tends to be the strongest and most erratic during the afternoon, making it difficult to control your fire. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on the weather forecast before planning for a bonfire. Summer thunderstorms can create high winds and dramatic wind shifts before the rain even starts, which, in turn, can lead to an unexpectedly dangerous situation for you and your guests.
The Government of Saskatchewan has shared a chart explaining how to judge when wind speeds are considered safe for an open fire. It recommends not starting a fire when current or forecasted wind speeds are higher than 10 km per hour.
How to Estimate Wind Speed
0-1 km/hour: Smoke rises vertically – no visible wind
1-5 km/hour: Smoke drifts – no visible wind
6-10 km/hour: Leaves rustle, weather vanes move, wind felt on face
11-19 km/hour: Light flags unfurl, leaves and twigs on trees move steadily
20-28 km/hour: Small branches move. Loose dust and paper fly about
29-38 km/hour: Leafy shrubs and trees sway
Take care to extinguish the fire fully
Fire Safety Tip #6: Extinguishing an outdoor fire doesn’t just mean putting out the flames. The hottest part of a fire is the bed of embers hidden underneath the logs. To properly extinguish a fire before heading inside spread out the ashes and let them cool down for a bit. Then take a container of water or a garden hose on a gentle spray setting and douse the bottom of the fire pit in water. Be alert for flare ups while you do this and keep a bucket of sand nearby in case you need to smother the flames. If your fire ever escapes the fire pit, call 911 immediately.
Barbeque safety tips
What’s a long weekend without starting up the barbeque? We’ve got some easy pointers to help make grilling safer for the amateur and the pro, wherever you are.
Fire Safety Tip #7: When lighting a propane or natural gas barbeque, the lid should always be open. Gasses can build up inside the closed area and explode if the amount of time between turning the gas on and attempting to light the grill is long enough. If you aren’t able to get your barbecue lit on the first few tries, turn off the gas and let it dissipate for 10 minutes before you attempt to light it again.
Fire Safety Tip #8: Always store gas cylinders outside and away from your house and be sure the valves are turned off when not in use. Check the tubes regularly for cracking, brittleness and leaks in the connections.
How to check your propane tank for a gas leak
To determine if there is a leak in your propane tank, use this simple method: take some soapy water and pour it over the line with the gas valve open. If gas is escaping, bubbles will appear showing you where the leak is. If you spot a leak, immediately turn off the gas and don’t use your barbeque until the leak is repaired.
Create a buffer zone around your barbeque
Fire Safety Tip #9: For the sake of your home, make certain your barbeque is kept at least 2-3 feet away from wood or vinyl siding. Placing the grill too close to your house, especially one with vinyl siding, can result in melting or burning. Also, keep in mind that while vinyl siding and composite decking have a higher burn point than wood, it’s also easier for these materials to melt and discolor, which can result in a costly claim for property damage.
Fire Safety Tip #10: For charcoal grills, use only starter fluids designed for your grill and never use gasoline. Limit the amount of fluid used. If the fire is too low, use dry kindling and add more charcoal if necessary. To avoid a flash fire – a fire that spreads rapidly through the vapors of an ignitable liquid – never add more liquid fuel to a lighted grill.
We hope you’ve enjoyed these fire safety tips and fire safety prevention guidelines. Understanding the potential risks that exist outside your home or cottage and checking in on them regularly is a key step to smart homeownership – and a safe and enjoyable long weekend!