Home Fire Prevention

Protect What Matters Most

Everyone has the responsibility to keep their families and homes safe from fire. The best ways to do this are to:

  • prevent fires from starting
  • maintain working smoke alarms on every storey of your home and outside all sleeping areas to have as much time to safely escape as possible. Not only are smoke alarms required by law - they save lives!
  • plan and practice a home fire escape plan so everyone in the home knows exactly what to do should the smoke alarms sound in an emergency
  • consider installing residential sprinklers when building a new home or doing extensive renovations
Candle Safety

Candles may be pretty to look at but they are a cause of home fires — and home fire deaths. Remember, a candle is an open flame, which means that it can easily ignite anything that can burn.

Think about using flameless candles in your home. They are safer, and even look and smell like real candles!

'Candle With Care'

If you do burn candles, make sure that you:

  • Keep candles at least 1 foot (30 centimetres) away from anything that can burn.
  • Use candle holders that are sturdy, and won’t tip over easily.
  • Put candle holders on a sturdy, uncluttered surface.
  • Light candles carefully. Keep your hair and any loose clothing away from the flame.
  • Don’t burn a candle all the way down — put it out before it gets too close to the holder or container.
  • Blow out all candles when you leave the room or go to bed. Avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and other areas where people may fall asleep. 
  • Never use a candle if oxygen is used in the home.
  • Have flashlights and battery-powered lighting ready to use during a power outage. Never use candles.

Candles and Kids

  • Never leave a child alone in a room with a burning candle.
  • Keep matches and lighters up high and out of children’s reach, in a locked cabinet.

Religious Candle Safety

Lit candles are used in religious services, in places of worship, and in the home. Whether you are using one candle, or more than one on a candelabra, kinara, or menorah, make sure you take a few moments to review the candle safety tips below.

  • Candles should be placed in a sturdy candle holder.
  • Handheld candles should not be passed from one person to another at any time.
  • When lighting candles at a candle lighting service, have the person with the unlit candle dip their candle into the flame of the lit candle.
  • Lit candles should not be placed in windows where a blind or curtain could catch fire.
  • Candles placed on, or near tables, altars, or shrines, must be watched by an adult.
  • If a candle must burn continuously, be sure it is enclosed in a glass container and placed in a sink, on a metal tray, or in a deep basin filled with water.
  • Candles should be out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Young children should never hold a lit candle. Consider providing battery-operated candles for children. A parent should decide when a child is mature enough to light a candle with adult supervision.
Carbon Monoxide

Make sure YOUR home is safe from carbon monoxide poisoning. MOST PEOPLE HAVE HEARD OF CARBON MONOXIDE (CO) AND KNOW THAT IT'S DANGEROUS.

But it's often a mystery of where it comes from, how it's produced, its physical symptoms, and what precautions can be taken to ensure it doesn't endanger you. Or worse, kill you.

Find out more about carbon monoxide.

Cooking Safety

Cooking is the #1 cause of home fires in Ontario. Only YOU can prevent a cooking fire in your home! Being mindful while you cook, however, can go a long way to helping prevent these fires. Follow a few safety tips to prevent these fires.

Never Leave Cooking Unattended

  • Always stay in the kitchen while cooking. If you must leave, even for a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • If you have something in the oven, set a timer to remind you to check it often.

Cook with Caution

  • Be on alert! If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol don’t use the stove or stovetop.
  • Keep anything that burns — cooking utensils, dishcloths, paper towels and pot holders — a safe distance from the stove.
  • Loose-fitting clothes can come into contact with stove burners and catch fire. Wear tight sleeves or roll them up when cooking.
  • Have a “kid-free zone” of at least 3 feet around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried.

If you have a cooking fire

  • Put a Lid On It! On the stovetop, smother the flames by sliding a lid over the pan and turning off the burner. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
  • For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.
  • If you have any doubt about fighting a small fire…just get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
  • Call 9-1-1 from outside the home.
Dryer Safety

Doing laundry is most likely part of your every day routine. But did you know how important taking care of your clothes dryer is to the safety of your home? With a few simple safety tips you can help prevent a clothes dryer fire.

Dryer Installation
  • Have your clothes dryer installed by a professional.
  • Make sure the correct electrical plug and outlet are used and that the dryer is connected properly.
  • Use rigid or flexible metal ducting for venting to the outdoors. Plastic or metal foil ducts are more prone to kinking, sagging and crushing, which leads to lint build-up. Plastic ducting is also more prone to ignition and melting.
  • Clothes dryers located in closet-type spaces or totally enclosed rooms (e.g. in apartments) should have sufficient incoming air for proper operation (see manufacturer’s instructions).
  • Read manufacturers' instructions and warnings in use and care manuals that come with new dryers.
Cleaning
  • Clean the lint filter before and after each load of laundry. Don’t forget to clean the back of the dryer where lint can build up. In addition, clean the lint filter with a nylon brush at least every six months or more often if it becomes clogged.
  • Clean lint out of the vent pipe every three months.
  • Have your dryer cleaned regularly by a professional, especially if it is taking longer than normal for clothes to dry.
Maintenance
  • Inspect the venting system behind the dryer to ensure it is not damaged or restricted.
  • Put a covering on outside wall dampers to keep out rain, snow and dirt.
  • Make sure the outdoor vent covering opens when the dryer is on.
  • Replace coiled-wire foil or plastic venting with rigid, non-ribbed metal duct.
  • Have gas-powered dryers inspected every year by a professional to ensure that the gas line and connection are together and free of leaks.
  • Check regularly to make sure nests of small animals and insects are not blocking the outside vent.
  • Keep the area around the clothes dryer free of items that can burn.
  • If you will be away from home for an extended time, unplug or disconnect the dryer.
Dryer 'Don'ts'
  •  Don’t use a clothes dryer without a lint filter or with a lint filter that is loose, damaged or clogged.
  • Don’t overload the dryer.
  • Don’t use a wire screen or cloth to cover the wall damper. They can collect lint and clog the dryer vent.
  • Don’t dry anything containing foam, rubber or plastic. An example of an item not to place in a dryer is a bathroom rug with a rubber backing.
  • Don’t dry any item for which manufacturers' instructions state “dry away from heat.”
  • Don’t dry glass fiber materials (unless manufacturers' instructions allow).
  • Don’t dry items that have come into contact with anything flammable like alcohol, cooking oils or gasoline. Dry them outdoors or in a well-ventilated room, away from heat.
  • Don’t leave a clothes dryer running if you leave home or when you go to bed.
Electrical Safety

Electricity makes our lives easier, but there are times when we take its power for granted. Follow these electrical safety tips to help keep your home fire-safe.

Appliances
  • Always plug major appliances, like refrigerators, stoves, washers and dryers, directly into a wall outlet.
  • Never use an extension cord with a major appliance — it can easily overheat and start a fire.
  • Always plug small appliances directly into a wall outlet, and use only one heat-producing appliance into a receptacle outlet at a time.
  • Unplug small appliances when you are not using them.
  • Keep lamps, light fixtures and light bulbs away from anything that can burn.
  • Use light bulbs that match the recommended wattage on the lamp or fixture.
  • Check electrical cords on appliances often. Replace cracked, damaged and loose electrical cords. Do not try to repair them.
  • Do not leave devices such as phones and tablets charging for long periods, and make sure that you are using the correct chargers.
  • If you are using laptops, don’t put them on soft furnishings, beds and duvets as this increases the chance of them overheating and catching fire. Never charge devices on soft surfaces, especially on the bed under the pillow.
Outlets
  • Do not over load outlets. Plugging too many things in to one outlet can be a major fire risk. If you need to plug in more items, use an approved power bar, or have a qualified electrician install additional outlets.
  • Insert plugs fully into sockets.
  • Never force a three-prong cord in to a two-slot outlet.
  • Install tamper-resistant electrical outlets if you have young children.
  • Use ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to reduce the risk of shock. GFCIs shut off an electrical circuit when it becomes a shock hazard. They should be installed inside the home in bathrooms, kitchens, garages and basements. All outdoor receptacles should be GFCI protected.
Extension Cords, Power Bars and Surge Protectors
  • Replace worn, old or damaged extension cords right away.
  • Use extension cords for temporary purposes only.
  • Avoid putting cords where they can be damaged or pinched, like under a carpet or rug.
  • Do not overload power strips.
  • Use power strips that have internal overload protection.
LED Lighting

Keep these tips in mind if you’re considering retrofitting or replacing traditional lighting with LEDs:

  • Retrofitting existing recessed light fixtures with energy efficient LED retrofit kits should be done only where it can be confirmed in the manufacturer’s instructions that the LED retrofit kit is compatible with the existing recessed fixture assembly.
  • Replacing existing incandescent lamps with LED type lamps in lighting fixtures is a great way to save energy.  However if the existing lighting fixture is controlled by a dimmer be sure to purchase “dimmable” LED lamps.
  • When purchasing new LED lamps or retrofit kits look for the mark of a qualified electrical testing laboratory and read the instructions prior to installation.

Important Reminders

  • Make sure all electrical work in your home is done by a qualified electrician!
  • When you are buying or remodeling a home, have it inspected by a qualified private inspector or in accordance with local requirements.
  • Call a qualified electrician or your landlord if you have:
    • Frequent problems with blowing fuses or tripping circuit breakers
    • A tingling feeling when you touch an electrical appliance
    • Discolored or warm wall outlets
    • A burning or rubbery smell coming from an appliance
    • Flickering or dimming lights
    • Sparks from an outlet

For more information on electrical safety in the home, visit the Electrical Safety Foundation International's website, and watch Brett Brenner, President of ESFI, in this video offers tips residents can follow to help keep homes safer from electrical fires, in this age of smart home technology.

Fire Prevention During Power Outages

It's important that you and your family stay safe during a power outage which can happen at any time and can cause many fire hazards. Richmond Hill Fire and Emergency Services and the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management offer the following tips to keep your family safe during a power outage:

 Candles and Matches
  • Use flashlights or battery-powered candles whenever possible instead of burning candles
  • Place candles in sturdy candleholders, protected by a glass chimney
  • Keep candles away from flammable materials, and out of reach of children and pets
  • Never leave candles unattended, blow them out when you leave the room or go to bed
  • Avoid candles in bedrooms
  • Keep matches and lighters away from children and never let children light candles unless they are supervised
 Appliances
  • Make sure your stove and oven are turned off as soon as the power goes out and that nothing is left on the stove or in the oven
  • Place portable electrical generators outside and make sure generator fumes don't get into your home
  • Keep generators and hot exhaust gases away from anything flammable
  • Store generator fuel outside, in an approved container
  • Shut down and let generators cool before refuelling
  • Always follow manufacturer's instructions for using your generator
 Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms
  • Make sure you have smoke and carbon monoxide alarms that are battery-protected during a power outage; electrically connected alarms will not work when the power is out
  • Test all smoke and carbon monoxide alarms regularly
Escape Plans
  • Make sure everyone in your home knows your escape plan
  • Plan who is going to look after children, older adults and pets
  • Choose a meeting place outside of your home
  • Don't let anyone go back into your home after exiting, even to call 9-1-1
  • Call 9-1-1 after exiting your home from a neighbour's home or use a cell or pay phone.

Contact the Fire Prevention Division at 905-883-5444 for more information.

High-Rise Fire Safety

People living in a high-rise apartment or condominium building need to think ahead and be prepared in the event of a fire. It is important to know the fire safety features in your building and work together with neighbors to help keep the building as fire-safe as possible.

Visit our High-Rise Fire Safety page to learn more.

Home Escape Planning

A fire can double in size every 30 seconds so planning ahead and being prepared for an emergency is very important. It could mean the difference between life and death. An escape route that you have planned and practiced will help you and members of your household get out quickly and safely.

Learn how to create a home escape plan.

Kids' Fire Safety

While fire safety and fire prevention really is an adult job, it is important to teach your children about fire safety.

Make an Escape Plan

  • Have a plan for young children who cannot get outside by themselves. You will need to wake babies and very young children and help them get out. In your plan, talk about who will help each child get out safely.
  • It is important to find two ways out of every room in your home, in case one exit is blocked or dangerous to use.
  • Choose a meeting place outside your home. Children should know what to do when they hear a smoke alarm and there is no adult around. Help them practice going to the outside meeting place.
  • Teach children to never go back inside a building that is on fire.
  • Fire is scary for everyone, especially children. It is important to teach children not to hide in a fire.

Keep Children Safe from Fire and Burns

  • Keep children 3 feet away from anything that can get hot. Space heaters and stove-tops can cause terrible burns. Keep children at least 3 feet away from stoves, heaters or anything that gets hot.
  • Closely supervise children, making sure that they are kept away from other fire sources, including lit candles, cigarettes, bonfires, and stoves.
  • Keep smoking materials locked up in a high place. Never leave cigarette lighters or matches where children can reach them.
  • Never play with lighters or matches when you are with your children. Children may try to do the same things they see you do.
  • Teach young children to never touch matches or lighters. They must go tell a grown-up when matches or lighters are found.
  • It is natural for young children to be curious and ask questions about fire, play with fire trucks, or pretend to cook. Use these opportunities to teach them about fire safety.
  • Explain that fire moves very fast and can hurt as soon as it touches them. Tell them that this is why matches and lighters are tools for adults only.
  • Establish clear rules and consequences about unsupervised and unauthorized uses of fire.
  • Be a good example! Always use fire sources — matches, lighters, candles, fireplaces, and campfires — in a safe manner. Never treat them as toys, or children may imitate you.
  • Talk with children about what their friends or other children are doing with fire.
  • Give praise for showing respect and age-appropriate responsible behavior toward fire.

Let the kids have some fun while learning to stay safe! Visit Sparky's Firehouse for videos, games and activities.

Pet Fire Safety

Pets can be our best friends, giving us comfort, friendship, and unconditional love. But they can also cause fires if we're not careful. 

Follow these safety tips from NFPA to stay safe:

  • Pets are curious. They may bump into, turn on, or knock over cooking equipment. Keep pets away from stoves and countertops.
  • Keep pets away from candles, lamps, and space heaters.
  • Always use a metal or heat-tempered glass screen on a fireplace and keep it in place.
  • Keep pets away from a chimney’s outside vents. Have a “pet-free zone” of at least 3 feet (1 meter) away from the fireplace. Glass doors and screens can stay dangerously hot for several hours after the fire goes out.
  • Consider battery-operated, flameless candles. They can look and smell like real candles.
  • Some pets are chewers. Watch pets to make sure they don’t chew through electrical cords. Have any problems checked by a professional.
Portable Fire Extinguishers

A portable fire extinguisher can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or containing it until the fire department arrives; but portable extinguishers have limitations. Because fire grows and spreads so rapidly, the #1 priority for residents is to get out safely.

Safety tips:

  • Use a portable fire extinguisher when the fire is confined to a small area, such as a wastebasket, and is not growing; everyone has exited the building; the fire department has been called or is being called; and the room is not filled with smoke.
  • To operate a fire extinguisher, remember the word PASS:
    • Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you, and release the locking mechanism.
    • Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
    • Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
    • Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.
  • For the home, select a multi-purpose extinguisher (can be used on all types of home fires) that is large enough to put out a small fire, but not so heavy as to be difficult to handle.
  • Choose a fire extinguisher that carries the label of an independent testing laboratory.
  • Read the instructions that come with the fire extinguisher and become familiar with its parts and operation before a fire breaks out.
  • Install fire extinguishers close to an exit and keep your back to a clear exit when you use the device so you can make an easy escape if the fire cannot be controlled. If the room fills with smoke, leave immediately.
  • Know when to go. Fire extinguishers are one element of a fire response plan, but the primary element is safe escape. Every household should have a home fire escape plan and working smoke alarms.

Richmond Hill Fire & Emergency Services is pleased to offer fire extinguisher training to our residents.

Residential Fire Sprinklers

Home fire sprinklers can dramatically reduce the heat, flames, and smoke produced in a fire. Properly installed and maintained fire sprinklers help save lives.

Home sprinkler facts:

  • Home fire sprinklers provide a way to fight flames immediately. In less time than it would take most fire departments to arrive on the scene, home fire sprinklers can contain and even extinguish a fire. There’s less damage, and less chance of deadly smoke and gases reaching your family.
  • A fire sprinkler activates during the early stages of a fire before it grows and spreads. Typically, only the sprinkler closest to the fire will activate, spraying water directly on the fire, not the rest of the house.
  • Accidental fire sprinkler discharge is extremely rare.
  • Modern home fire sprinklers are inconspicuous and can be mounted flush with walls or ceilings. Many sprinklers can even be concealed.
  • When building a home, you choose from many options – carpeting, a fireplace or an extra bathroom, for instance. For about the same cost, you can choose a home fire sprinkler system to safeguard your family. On average, home fire sprinklers cost $1.35 per square foot (1-1.5% of the total cost of construction) of sprinklered space in new construction.

For more information on residential sprinklers, visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition Canada.

Seniors' Fire Safety

Older adults are more likely to be killed or injured by fire. About 30 per cent of fire related deaths in Ontario involve people 65 years of age and older.  It is important to give seniors the education and tools they need to plan around their abilities and have a home free of fire hazards.

Visit our Seniors' Fire Safety page to learn more.

Smoke Alarms

Smoke alarms save lives. Smoke alarms that are properly installed and maintained play a vital role in reducing fire deaths and injuries. If there is a fire in your home, smoke spreads fast and you need smoke alarms to give you time to get out.

Find out more about smoke alarms.

Smoking and Cigarette Safety

The place where we feel safest — at home — is where most smoking-materials structure fires, deaths, and injuries occur. Smoking materials are the leading cause of fire deaths.

Smoking Safety

  • If you smoke, use only fire-safe cigarettes.
  • If you smoke, smoke outside. Most deaths result from fires that started in living rooms, family rooms and dens or in bedrooms.
  • Keep cigarettes, lighters, matches, and other smoking materials up high out of the reach of children, in a locked cabinet.

Put It Out

  • Use a deep, sturdy ashtray. Place it away from anything that can burn.
  • Do not discard cigarettes in vegetation such as mulch, potted plants or landscaping, peat moss, dried grasses, leaves or other things that could ignite easily.
  • Before you throw away butts and ashes, make sure they are out, and dousing in water or sand is the best way to do that.

Smoking and Medical Oxygen

  • Never smoke and never allow anyone to smoke where medical oxygen is used. Medical oxygen can cause materials to ignite more easily and make fires burn at a faster rate than normal. It can make an existing fire burn faster and hotter.

E-Cigarettes

  • Fires have occurred while e-cigarettes were being used, the battery was being charged, or the device was being transported.
  • Battery failures have led to small explosions.
  • Never leave charging e-cigarettes unattended.
  • E-cigarettes should be used with caution.