Hamilton fire crews are bracing for an upswing in house fires due to the frigid temperatures chilling the city this week, says fire official Claudio Mostacci.

Firefighters typically see more fires in homes related to heating equipment and appliances in the winter, Mostacci said in a media release.

Because of that, people need to pay close attention to potential fire hazards that could pop up when using fuel-burning appliances, space heaters and even block heaters in vehicles.

"Block heaters should be treated just as any other piece of electrical equipment around the home," said Fire Chief Rob Simonds. "Cords and connections should be in good repair and caution should be used to ensure circuits aren't overloaded."

The fire department offers these safety tips for keeping warm in cold weather:

  • Burn dry, well-seasoned wood in fireplaces and woodstoves to reduce the risk of excessive creosote build-up in chimneys.
  • Allow ashes from your woodstove or fireplace to cool before emptying them into a metal container with a tight-fitting lid. Keep the container outside.
  • Keep intake and exhaust vents for furnaces and heating appliances free of ice and snow accumulations to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide build-up from inefficient combustion.
  • Install carbon monoxide (CO) alarms to alert you to the presence of this deadly gas.
  • Keep space heaters at least one metre (3 feet) away from anything that can burn, including curtains, upholstery, and clothing. When refueling a space heater, turn off the heater, wait for it to cool and refuel it outdoors.
  • Turn off or unplug space heaters when leaving the room, going to sleep or leaving the home. Use only CSA or ULC approved space heaters that are designed for indoor use.
  • Replace worn or damaged electrical wires and connections on vehicles and extension cords and use the proper-gauge extension cord for vehicle block heaters. Consider using approved timers for vehicle block heaters rather than leaving heaters on all night.

If you need any information about smoke alarms or fire safety, contact the fire prevention division of the fire department at 905-546-2424 ext. 1380.