Home fire safety

Once a fire has started it’s too late to plan how to get out. Sit down with your family today and make a step-by-step plan for escaping a fire. Take the opportunity to review the simple steps that your family can take to prevent fire accidents and protect yourselves from burns and scalds.

Fire drills

One of the most important parts of fire safety is to have a family fire evacuation plan and practice it. Knowing what to do in a fire can make the difference between life and death. Follow these step-by-step instructions and practice Home Fire Drills regularly. 

  1. Draw a floor plan of your home: Mark two ways out of every room - especially sleeping areas. Discuss the escape routes with every member of your household.
  2. Agree on a meeting place: Find a favourite tree or another marker where every member of the household will gather outside after escaping a fire. This allows you to count heads and inform the fire department if anyone is missing or trapped inside the burning building.
  3. Practice: Have a fire drill in your home and follow your escape plan at least twice a year. Appoint someone to be the monitor and have everyone participate. A fire drill is not a race. Get out quickly, but carefully.
  4. Make your exit drill realistic. Pretend that some exits are blocked by fire, and practice alternative escape routes. Pretend the lights are out and some escape routes are filling with smoke.
  5. Locks: Make sure everyone in the household can unlock all doors and windows quickly, even in the dark. Windows or doors with security bars need to be equipped with quick-release devices, and everyone in the household should know how to use them. If you live in a multi-story house and must escape from an upper story window, be sure there is a safe way to reach the ground such as a fire-resistant fire escape ladder.
  6. Stairs: Make special arrangements for children, older adults and people with disabilities. People who have difficulty moving should have a phone in their sleeping area and, if possible, should sleep on the ground floor. If you live in an apartment building, use stairways to escape. NEVER use an elevator during a fire. It may stop between floors or take you to a floor where the fire is burning. Some high-rise buildings may have evacuation plans that require you to stay where you are and wait for the fire department.
  7. Test doors: Kneel or crouch at the door, reach up as high as you can and with the back of your hand touch the door, the knob, and the crack between the door and its frame. If you feel any warmth at all use another escape route. If the door feels cool, open it with caution. Put your shoulder against the door and open it slowly. Be prepared to slam it shut if smoke or flames are on the other side.
  8. Crawl low under smoke: Since heat rises and smoke contains deadly gases, during a fire cleaner air will be found near the floor. If you encounter smoke when using your primary exit, use an alternative escape route. If you must exit through smoke, crawl on your hands and knees keeping your head 12 to 24 inches (30 - 60 cms ) above the floor.
  9. Stop, Drop and Roll!: If your clothes catch on fire STOP where you are, drop to the ground, cover your face with your hands and roll over and over to smother the flames. (If someone gets burned, place the wound in cool water for 10 - 15 minutes. If the burn blisters or chars, see a doctor immediately.)
  10. Get out fast! Don't stop for anything. Do not try to rescue possessions or pets. Go directly to your meeting place and then call the fire department from a neighbour's phone or a portable phone. Every member of your household should know how to call the fire department.
  11. . . . and STAY OUT!! Once you are out of your home, don't go back for any reason. If people are trapped firefighters have the best chance of rescuing them. The heat and smoke of a fire are overpowering. Firefighters have the training, experience and protective equipment needed to enter burning buildings.
  12. Trapped? If you are trapped, close all doors between you and the fire. Stuff the cracks around the doors to keep out smoke. Wait at a window and signal for help with a flashlight or by waving a light coloured cloth. If there is a phone in the room, call the fire department and report exactly where you are. 
Burn prevention

Fire is not the only source of severe burns. Water, normally the firefighter’s friend, can also be a foe. Always be careful around fire, hot liquids and gases. To learn more about protecting children from burns and scalds visit burnfund.org.

Install smoke alarms
  • More than half of all fatal home fires happen at night while people are asleep. Smoke Alarms sound an alarm when a fire starts, waking people before they are trapped or overcome by smoke. With smoke Alarms your risk of dying in a home fire is cut nearly in half.
  • Install smoke Alarms on every level of your home, including the basement and in every bedroom. Follow installation instructions carefully, and test smoke detectors monthly. Change all smoke Alarms batteries at least once a year. If your detector is more than 10 years old, replace it with a new one.
Fireworks are for professionals
  • Even sparklers, which burn as hot as 1200 degrees F (649 C), cause thousands of injuries to children each year.
  • Attend professional displays and leave fireworks to the technicians who are trained to use them.
  • Fireworks are prohibited in the City of Kelowna.
Protect your home from wildfire
  • Create a safety zone around your home by clearing flammable vegetation.
  • Keep your roof clear of leaves and needles.
  • Discuss community fire safety with your neighbours
  • For more information about wildfire/urban interface safety go to FireSmart Canada
Use electricity safely
  • Don't overload extension cords or run them under rugs.
  • Replace any cord that is cracked or frayed. If an appliance smokes or has an unusual smell, unplug it and have it repaired by a professional.
  • Extension cords are for temporary use only.
Gasoline storage
  • Use it as a motor fuel only, not for cleaning.
  • Store only a small amount in an approved container, OUTSIDE the home.
Space heaters need space
  • Keep portable and space heaters at least 3 feet (1m) from anything that can burn.
  • Never leave heaters on when you leave home or go to bed, and keep children and pets well away.
Matches and lighters       
  • Store all matches and lighters up high, preferably in a locked cabinet.
  • Teach children to tell a grown-up when they find matches or lighters and to never touch them.
Home fire safety tips tor the holidays

During the holiday season, the incidences of residential fires increase, even though most are preventable. By following some basic tips, Kelowna residents can avoid experiencing the devastation of fire in their home.

In the kitchen
  • Never leave cooking unattended. This is the leading cause of kitchen fires.
  • Turn off the heat before leaving the kitchen.
  • Turn pot or pan handles inward to prevent burns caused by overturned pots.
  • Wear short or close-fitting sleeves to avoid clothes catching fire.
  • Keep flammable materials, such as curtains, newspapers or plastic bags, away from heat sources such as burners and the oven.
  • Have a pot lid nearby to smother potential pan fires.
  • When frying foods, use a temperature-controlled electric skillet or deep-fat fryer.
Holiday tree
  • If purchasing a live tree, check for freshness by pulling on the needles. If they are brown or come off easily, the tree is probably dry and can be a fire hazard.
  • When setting up the tree, try to position it near an electrical outlet to keep cords short.
  • Cut two to five centimetres diagonally off the base of the tree, and place it securely in a large holder; ensure that the water in the holder stays at least one centimetre above the cut to prevent the tree from drying out.
  • Unplug tree lights before leaving home or going to sleep.
  • If using an artificial tree, check the label to ensure it is fire-retardant.
  • If using an aluminium or metal tree, do not decorate with strings of lights or electrical products as these trees are conductors of electricity.
  • Make sure any tree is kept away from exits, heat vents, fireplaces, radiators, televisions and other heat sources. 
Disposing of holiday trees
  • Dispose of live trees and take down artificial ones once the holidays are over.
  • Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood burning stove. They can spark and ignite nearby items.
  • The best way to dispose of a live tree is to take it to a recycling facility or to be chipped.
    • Complimentary wood chipping service runs from December 26 to January 31. In Kelowna, use the Glenmore Landfill or the corner of Richter and Rowcliffe, in West Kelowna and surrounding area, use the Westside Landfill, in Lake Country, access Swalwell Park on Bottom Wood Lake Road and in Peachland, use the compost site on Princeton Avenue. Residents are reminded to remove all tinsel and decorations from trees before dropping them off for composting or chipping. 
Decorating tips
  • Use only non-combustible, flame retardant or flame resistant materials to decorate your home and/or tree.
  • Never use candles to decorate trees.
  • Keep candles away from decorations, trees and other combustible materials.
  • Keep candles in a sturdy holder away from children, pets and combustible materials. Blow them out before leaving the room or going to sleep.
  • To eliminate the risk created by an open candle flame, use battery-powered candles whenever possible, especially when using candles in a decorative setting.
  • Purchase lights and electrical decorations bearing the name of an independent testing lab (ULC or CSA, for example), and follow the manufacturer's instructions for installation and maintenance.
  • Indoor lights should only be used indoors; outdoor lights should only be used outdoors.
  • Run outdoor light cords above the ground to keep them away from snow and water.
  • Carefully inspect new and previously used light strings, and replace damaged items before plugging lights in.
  • Be mindful of not damaging a cord’s wire insulation when mounting lights. It is safer to use plastic clips instead of nails.
  • Keep pets and young children away from electrical decorations and light strings.
  • Locate decorations in an area that will not block or interfere with an exit, or exit route.
  • Space heaters need space - ensure at least one metre of clearance.
  • Turn off all light strings and decorations before leaving home or going to bed.
  • Never place furniture, rugs or other objects over electrical cords. Any damage the cord may sustain can go unnoticed.
  • Never overload extension cords.
  • Take down all decorations and bring outdoor electrical lights inside immediately after the holidays.
  • Holiday wrapping can be highly combustible and should be kept away from heat sources such as candles, lamps, fireplaces and wood burning stoves.
  • Never throw wrapping paper in a fire place. Rapid burning can generate sparks or ignite creosote in the chimney. 
  • Keep a close eye on anyone cooking or smoking while under the influence of alcohol.
  • Keep matches and lights up high, out of sight and reach of children.
  • When smokers visit your house, ask them to keep smoking materials with them, and away from small children.
  • After a party, always check on, between and under upholstery and cushions and inside trash cans for smouldering cigar or cigarette butts. 
Space heaters
  • When purchasing a space heater, be sure to choose one that automatically shuts off if it falls over.
  • Place space heaters on a flat, level surface and provide at least one metre of space from things that can burn – blankets, furniture, curtains and clothing.
  • Avoid using an electrical heating device on the same circuit with another high wattage appliance, such as a microwave or toaster oven.
  • Regularly inspect the wall outlet, heater plug and cord for excessive heat.
  • Check electrical heating equipment regularly; replace loose, frayed or damaged cords.

NOTE: never use a range or oven to heat your home.

For more information on fire safety, visit Fire Prevention Canada.