A cottage fire on our lake in 2019 is a reminder of the importance of taking effective steps to prevent a home/cottage fire and knowing what to do in the event of a fire emergency.
The MPOA has had Fire Chief Casey Cuddy of the Kaladar/Barrie Fire Department to two AGM meetings to present to our membership over the past several years. Here are some things that Fire Chief Cuddy recommends:
- Natural Resources suggests 10 m (32 ft) for clearing your trees back. If you are going to have trees closer they should be deciduous (leaves not needles).
Managing the space around your house and buildings is of prime importance.” Prepare a defensible fire zone around your home, keeping it clear of vegetation and thinned out. Vegetation must be cleared from fuel supplies such as power lines and propane tanks. Don’t just do this in the spring as trees tend to shed their needles all season long.
- Working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are the most important message as most fire fatalities occur in dwellings where there are no alarms or the alarms are not working.
It is the law for all Ontario homes to have a working smoke alarm on every storey and outside all sleeping areas. This covers both cottages and bunkies.
- Unobstructed access for the fire department is important for the fire department to respond quickly when they get to shore. Have an area to dock the boat and unload equipment readily available.
- Once the fire department arrives, move back and let them do their job. People are naturally curious, want to help or just don’t pay attention to emergency responders.
Keeping your laneway assessible to allow emergency vehicles to travel on is of importance. Any overhanging branches or brush will greatly hamper the vehicles ability to get to your assistance. For example, a fire truck requires a space of at least 12 feet wide by 12 feet high to get by.
- For boat access only, have your 911 (civic) address visible from your dock.
Remember that your civic address is “your life saving guide that directs firefighters and/or paramedics to you.” Keep them clear!
- After calling 911 explain what service you require (fire, ambulance, police), report the area or district you are in (Townships of Addington Highlands and North Frontenac), your name, your civic address (blue or green sign), street or road name, boat access bay, whether you are on the north or south Mazinaw.
Given that the Fire Department services many lakes and a large area, and given that they need to get their boat and launch it before proceeding to a fire on the boat access side of Mazinaw, some people have elected to purchase fire pumps. Some considerations when buying a pump:
- pump size / water force
- who will use it – do you need one that can be started easily by someone who doesn’t have a lot of strength (there are one-pull fire pumps with this in mind)
- how much hose will you need – from the water to the front and back of the cottage and outlying buildings; perhaps to reach your neighbour’s front and back if you have purchased this together
- keep all the pieces to the fire pump together and ensure everyone knows where they are kept
- maintenance, testing and training are paramount
Fire Chief Casey notes, “I understand people wanting to have pumps and fight the fire themselves, however safety is first.” As part of the training, consider asking the fire department to come to your cottage to demonstrate how to safely work the equipment.
- Replace the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
- Blow the leaves out from under the cottage and the eaves and roof.
- Rake all the dead leaves and pine needles around the property and bring them well back into the forest where they will naturally decay back into dirt (do this several times during the season if necessary).
- Unscrew all electrical outlets and light sockets and vacuum them out (mice and insects can build nests in electrical boxes).
- Review your lot to ensure shrubs and tree limbs are not encroaching towards your cottage.
- Ensure your fire pit is on solid rock, or brick around and underneath. Remove any weeds that have grown close (fire can travel underground and catch fire on a nearby tree if precautions are not taken).
- Maintain and test your fire pump (monthly)
- Keep on hand rakes, shovels, axes, garden hoses, and roof ladders as great aids in suppressing fires.
Here are some things to consider:
- Do not leave electrical appliances plugged in if they do not need to be.
The heating element in a toaster plugged into an electrical element can be energized even though the toaster lifter is in the up or off position which can pose a fire hazard if the toaster is near flammable items, so it’s a good idea to unplug it when not in use.
- Make sure that any space heaters are surrounded by at least three feet of empty space.
- Do not leave the stove unattended when cooking.
Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home structure fires and home fire injuries.
- Do not overload electrical outlets or use extension cords in the place of additional outlets.
- Check electrical appliances regularly for wearing cords and plugs.
- During power outages, exercise caution when using candles as a light source.
Here are some resources you may find useful:
- The FOCA FireSmart Manual has an in-depth fire protection plan and assessment. This has more ideas for your walls, windows, doors, eaves, soffits, chimneys, burn barrels, ash pits, and more.
- A more complete list of fire prevention information: Spring & Summer Fire Safety Tips from the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs.
- Fire education and prevention: the Ontario Government's Cottage Fire Safety Tips or Cottage Life's Fire Safety Tips for the Cottage.
- Your local fire department (613-336-2286).