Fire prevention

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An uncontrolled fire can have devastating consequences to properties or the natural environment. Follow the tips below to do your part in preventing uncontrolled fires – and don’t forget to participate in the annual Fire Prevention Week! Fire Prevention Canada is a great resource to learn more about fire safety.

Fire Prevention Week

We know that every year over 400 Canadians lose their lives in a house or building fire. Fire Prevention Week is an important event that takes place every October to raise awareness of fire risks in and around our homes and provide education on ways we can protect ourselves from fire and fire hazards. Each year during this week, the Kelowna Fire Department teams up with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and fire departments across the nation to bring home important fire prevention messages.

2020 theme - Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen!

Cooking is one of the leading causes of home fires and home fire injuries in British Columbia. This year's Fire Prevention Week™ (Oct. 4-10) aims to educate people about the simple but important things they can do to keep themselves and those around them safe from fire in their kitchens and homes.

For more information and to access promotional and educational materials, visit the FIre Prevention Week pages put together by the Government of British Columbia and NFPA.

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 listed below that your family can take to prevent fire accidents and protect yourselves from burns and scalds.

Have a family fire evacuation plan and practice it

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 DiverseAbilities. 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.
  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, cleaner air will be found near the floor during a fire. 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 centimetres) 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. Don’t 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. 
Take steps to prevent burns

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. Your risk of dying in a home fire is cut nearly in half when you have a working smoke alarm.
  • 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 alarm batteries at least once a year. Replace smoke detectors that have been in use for 10 years or longer.
Leave firework displays to the 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 Kelowna
Protect your home from wildfires
  • 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 visit FireSmartBC and 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
Store & use heating sources properly

Gasoline

  • Use it as a motor fuel only, not for cleaning
  • Store only a small amount in an approved container, outside the home

Space heaters

  • Keep portable and space heaters at least three feet (one metre) 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
Maintain propane appliances regularly and use only as intended

Home fire safety tips for the holidays

Incidences of residential fires increase during the holiday season, even though most are preventable. By following some basic tips, you can avoid experiencing the devastation of fire over the holidays.

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 on 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 your 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’s fire-retardant
  • Don’t decorate aluminium or metal trees 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. A complimentary wood chipping service runs Dec. 26 to Jan. 31 in the following locations:
    • East Kelowna: Glenmore Landfill
    • West Kelowna and surrounding area: Westside Landfill
    • Lake Country: Access Swalwell Park on Bottom Wood Lake Road
    •  Peachland: 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.
  • Use battery-powered candles whenever possible, especially when using candles in a decorative setting, to eliminate the risk created by an open candle flame
  • 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
  • Use indoor and outdoor lights in the appropriate settings
  • 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’s safer to use plastic clips instead of nails
  • Keep pets and young children away from electrical decorations and light strings
  • Place 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
Entertaining
  • 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 and replace loose, frayed or damaged cords
  • Never use a range or oven to heat your home
Wildfire prevention

The Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) Program was created in B.C. as a response to the devastating 2003 wildfire in Kelowna. As an integral part of the Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative, managed and funded through the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, CWPPs aim to develop strategic recommendations to assist in improving safety and to reduce the risk of damage to property from wildfires.

The CWPP - updated in 2016 - sets out fuel treatments and recommendations for future community planning to reduce wildfire risk.

To report a wildfire, call the BC Wildfire Centre at 1-800-663-5555 or dial *5555 on a cell.

Current fire restrictions

Conditions are typically dry between the months of June and September and the Kelowna Fire Department reminds everyone to help by observing fire restrictions. Campfires and outdoor wood burning are never allowed within city limits.

Kelowna beaches and parks are smoke-free. The Parks & Public Spaces Bylaw prohibits smoking in all Kelowna parks, including beaches, trails, playgrounds, sports fields and stadiums, and also prohibits the use of e-cigarettes and cannabis in parks and public spaces.

Tips to improve your level of wildfire protection

Research has shown that a house with both a fire-resistant roof and a FireSmart zone surrounding it is 85 per cent more likely to survive a wildfire.

  • If you’re replacing your roof, choose a Class A or fire-resistant product. Your roof is the most vulnerable part of your house in a wildfire because of its large size and susceptibility to flying embers (firebrands).
  • Dead pine needles are fuel. Keep them off your roof, out of your gutters and away from the foundation of your house.
  • Prune your shrubs, removing all dead branches. De-limb trees up to two to three metres from the ground. Take the green waste to a local disposal site.
  • Trim back branches that are hanging over your roof and then clear your roof of leaf or needle litter
  • Keep your lawn mowed and watered, as fire moves quickly through dry grass and weeds
  • Store firewood at least 10 metres from your house, especially during fire season  

For more information, download the FireSmart manual.

FireSmart - demonstration house

The Kelowna Fire Department has worked on the caretaker’s house and property at the top of Knox Mountain Park to provide a real demonstration of ideal conditions to mitigate fire risk. The program is aimed to inform anyone living in wildland or urban interface areas about the steps they can take to prepare their house and property to reduce the risk of wildfire. An interpretive sign has been placed on-site as a visual guide with tips that can reduce the fire risk for anyone living in an urban interface area.

Priority zones within demonstration house

Priority Zone 1 (within 10 meters of the building - the most critical area to consider for fire protection)

  • Shrubs, trees, deadfall, unnecessary storage and woodpiles removed
  • Grass is watered and mowed
  • A metre of landscape rock has been added next to the house
  • Trees that remain have been pruned at least two meters up from the ground

Priority Zone 2 (10 to 30 meters from the building)

  • Trees pruned and thinned around all buildings/structures on the property

Priority Zone 3 (30 to 100 meters and beyond from the building)

  • Trees in the park have been thinned and ladder fuels removed