Seasonal Fire Prevention

The following seasonal safety tips will help keep you and your family safe all-year-round.

Barbecue Safety

Barbecues are a great way to spend time with family and friends in the summer and these safety tips will help you barbecue safely.

Testing your barbecue connections for leaks
  • Make sure the propane tank is properly connected and open the valve
  • Spread a soapy solution on all propane tank fittings, including the valve on the hose
  • When bubbles appear and become larger or increase in number it means there's a leak
  • Never check for a propane leak using an open flame

Watch this video from NFPA to learn more about testing your grill for leaks.

Transporting propane tanks
  • You need to transport propane tanks in an upright position with the valve plugs in place. Make sure there is good ventilation.
  • You can place propane tanks inside a container that keeps them from moving around in the trunk of your vehicle. Secure the trunk with something that will let it stay opened slightly for ventilation.
  • The floor of the rear passenger side of your vehicle is another option as long as the tank is not moving around and the rear windows are open.
 Propane Tank Maintenance
  • Store your propane tanks outside, in a well ventilated, secure location
  • Keep your head away from the valves on your tank because a sudden burst of propane liquid from the safety valve could result in serious injury or frostbite
  • Keep your tank painted a white, aluminum or another reflective colour to reflect sunlight which can cause the tank to heat up and increase in pressure
  • Ask propane suppliers to check for dents, damage, rust or leaks before refilling a tank
  • Check the date stamp on the collar of the tank to see when it was last approved, propane tanks must be inspected and re-qualified or replaced every 10 years in Canada
Propane Leaks

Follow these important steps if you think there is a propane leak nearby:

  • Turn off the supply of propane from the tank and leave the area right away
  • Remove all smoking materials (cigarettes, cigars, etc.) and open flames
  • Don't light matches or make any other source of fire or sparks
  • Don't touch electrical switches
  • Don't operate flashlights or telephones
  • Move up-wind, away from the smell right away
  • After you are away from the area, call 9-1-1 to report the leak
  • Don't go back to the area until a professional says it's safe
Fire Hydrants

In a fire, seconds count. A fire engine holds about two to five minutes’ worth of water. When that is used up, hydrants become indispensable, as every passing second allows a fire to grow. When fire hydrants are covered in snow, or hidden behind trees and shrubs, it can delay fire services, costing crucial seconds or minutes that can mean the difference between saving a structure and its inhabitants and not doing so.

A hydrant needs space below its valve, and approximately 1 metre of space all around it. This space allows fire fighters to attach hoses to the valve and rotate the hydrant wrench. 

Winter Maintenance

In the winter months, it’s especially important to be conscious of how snow-covered fire hydrants. Although there are few rules concerning who should clear hydrants, it’s generally considered the responsibility of the residents occupying property near a hydrant. Adopt your local hydrant - the work of just a few minutes might later prove to be vital to the safety of you or your neighbors!

  • Please make it a point to uncover your fire hydrant after every snowfall.
  • Clear a path approximately 3 feet around the hydrant. This gives the fire department room to work with this hydrant should the need arise.
  • Please consider helping a neighbor who is elderly or has a medical condition by shoveling out a hydrant in front of their home. This act of kindness will benefit the entire neighborhood.

Summer Maintenance

When the Fire department needs to use a hydrant, it is important that they can gain access to one easily. Please remember:

  • Ensure vegetation around or near the hydrant does not impede access (e.g. landscaping, shrubs, trees, etc.)
  • Do not put up fences, walls or any structure within one metre of a hydrant
  • Do not place anything between a hydrant and the street, so the hydrant can be easily seen by the firefighters
Fireworks Safety

Every year, fireworks cause hundreds of fires, injuries and even deaths. Because of this, the fire service does not encourage the use of fireworks. The only safe way to enjoy fireworks is to go to a public fireworks display.

Richmond Hill also has a Fireworks By-Law, which regulates the use of fireworks. 

Visit our Fireworks Permits and Safety Tips page to learn more.

Halloween Safety

Halloween is a fun, and spooky, time of year for kids. Make trick-or-treating safe for your little monsters with a few easy safety tips:

  • When choosing a costume, stay away from long trailing fabric. If your child is wearing a mask, make sure the eye holes are large enough so he or she can see out.
  • Provide children with flashlights to carry for lighting or glow sticks as part of their costume.
  • Dried flowers, cornstalks and crepe paper catch fire easily. Keep all decorations away from open flames and other heat sources like light bulbs and heaters.
  • Use a battery-operated candle or glow-stick in jack-o-lanterns. If you use a real candle, use extreme caution. Make sure children are watched at all times when candles are lit. Be sure to place lit pumpkins well away from anything that can burn and far enough out of the way of trick-or-treaters, doorsteps, walkways and yards.
  • Remember to keep exits clear of decorations, so nothing blocks escape routes.
  • Make sure all smoke alarms in the home are working.
  • Tell children to stay away from open flames including jack-o-lanterns with candles in them. Be sure they know how to stop, drop and roll if their clothing catches fire. (Have them practice, stopping immediately, dropping to the ground, covering their face with hands, and rolling over and over to put the flames out.)
Heating Safety
Heating equipment is one of the leading cause of home fires in Ontario. Stay fire safe while staying warm.
 Chimneys and Fireplaces

Regular cleaning and maintenance of chimneys is the best way to prevent fires and safety hazards. Fireplaces, woodstoves and furnaces all use a chimney to operate. You need to hire a professional to clean and inspect your chimney properly. In Canada, you should hire a Wood Energy Technical Training (WETT) certified technician.

Serious corrosion of chimneys happens a lot in areas that you can't see and this can cause a fire in your home. A chimney sweep will find these areas and to let you know about any repairs needed. Even chimneys installed as recently as three years ago can have corrosion.

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

Additional heating safety tips include:

  • Keep anything that can burn a safe distance away from the furnace and chimney, and remember to have them inspected every year by a professional
  • Check to make sure the vent of your wood-burning fireplace is open before using it
  • Always keep a screen in front of your fireplace
  • Make sure your chimney is safe to use
  • Check that your furnace is working properly and that you learn about carbon monoxide safety
  • Keep children, pets and flammable materials away from fireplaces, space heaters and wood burning stoves
  • Keep a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace to prevent embers or sparks jumping out.
  • Do not burn paper in your fireplace.
  • Put the fire out before you go to sleep or leave your home.
  • Put ashes in a metal container with a lid, outside, at least 3 feet from your home.
 Furnaces
An annual inspection ensures that your heating and venting systems are operating safely and efficiently. A qualified heating contractor can provide that important annual check-up.

Here are a few things you can do to stay safe:
  • Have your furnace inspected each year.
  • Keep anything that can burn away from the furnace.
  • Clear the snow from around furnace vents
  • Check your furnace's flame. Flames should be mostly blue and steady. A pale yellow or wavy flame is a sign that your furnace is not working properly.
  • Check your venting system. Soft, rusted, or broken vent piping can release combustion products into your home.
  • Examine your unit to ensure it is free of dust, rust or signs of corrosion.
  • Look for signs of discoloration or soot. Build-up around the burner access door and vents could indicate a problem.
  • Check air filters monthly and clean or replace them as needed.
  • Make sure that furnace panels and grills are in place and that the fan compartment door is closed when the furnace is on. Leaving these doors open could cause carbon monoxide to build up in living areas.
 Space Heaters
  • Purchase a heater with the seal of a qualified testing laboratory.
  • Keep the heater at least 3 feet (1 metre) away from anything that can burn, including people and don't use heaters to dry clothes or shoes
  • Choose a heater with a thermostat and overheat protection.
  • Place the heater on a solid, flat surface.
  • Make sure your heater has an auto shut-off to turn the heater off if it tips over.
  • Keep space heaters out of the way of foot traffic. Never block an exit.
  • Keep children away from the space heater.
  • Plug the heater directly into the wall outlet. Never use an extension cord.
  • Space heaters should be turned off and unplugged when you leave the room or go to bed
 Portable Generators
  • Use portable generators outdoors in well-ventilated areas away from all doors, windows and vents.
  • Make sure you have carbon monoxide alarms in your home.
  • Do not use a generator in a wet area. This can cause shock or electrocution.
  • Connect appliances to the generator with heavy-duty extension cords.
  • Do not fuel your generator when it is running. Spilling gas on a hot engine can cause a fire.

Heating, holiday decorations, winter storms and candles all contribute to an increased risk of fire during the winter months. Ensure that you have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in your home and outside all sleeping areas. Make sure yo have a home escape plan in the event of a fire, and be prepared for severe winter weather conditions. 

Holiday safety

We want our community to stay safe during the holiday season so you can enjoy every minute. Unfortunately, the number of fires and fire deaths increases during the holiday season. Following a few simple tips will ensure a happy and fire-safe holiday season.

Holiday Decorating
  • Be careful with holiday decorations. Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.
  • Keep lit candles away from decorations and other things that can burn. Blow out candles when you leave the room or go to bed.
  • Use lights that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, not both.
  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of light strands to connect.
  • Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.
  • Turn off all lights and decorations before leaving home or going to bed.
  • Keep decorations away from windows and doors.
  • Make sure you are buying Canadian Standards Association (CSA) certified goods such as holiday decorations, electric toys, household appliances, power tools and consumer electronics
  • Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.
Holiday Entertaining
  • Test your smoke alarms and tell guests about your home fire escape plan.
  • Keep children and pets away from lit candles.
  • Keep matches and lighters up high in a locked cabinet.
  • Stay in the kitchen when cooking on the stovetop.
  • Ask smokers to smoke outside. Remind smokers to keep their smoking materials with them so young children do not touch them.
  • Provide large, deep ashtrays for smokers. Wet cigarette butts with water before discarding.
  • Don't cook or smoke while under the influence of alcohol
Christmas Tree Safety
  • Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.
  • Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 2” from the base of the trunk.
  • Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.
  • Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.
  • Add water to the tree stand. Be sure to add water daily. Lighting the tree
  • Use lights that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use.
  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of light strands to connect.
  • Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
  • Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
  • Get rid of the tree after Christmas or when it is dry. Dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), more than 200 home fires each year start with a Christmas tree. In this video, NIST fire researchers demonstrate what could happen if a fire starts in a watered Christmas tree vs. a dry Christmas tree.