It's spring camping season and northerners may feel the need to get to their cabin or tent frame while there's still enough snow and ice to safely snowmobile.

But events in the last year underscore the need to think about safety, not just in travelling on the land, but also in camp.  

Last month, just outside of Inuvik, a wall tent burned down leaving one man dead.

In October, carbon monoxide killed a couple in Hay River who were spending the night in a rental cabin.

That rattled Northwest Territories’ fire marshal, Chucker Dewar.

“To be honest, I never heard of propane lights generating enough carbon monoxide in fatal doses, so I was quite shocked when I heard that.”

The cabin in that case was small and tightly constructed, with no air flow or drafts — not something that’s common in the North. “Just a cracked window may have made a substantial difference,” Dewar says.

“What I took away from it is that we need to be extremely cautious and take some measures to protect ourselves.”

Fire alarms, CO detectors essential

Dewar says there are easy things people can do to keep themselves safe from fires.  

“When I was a little younger, I never thought about a smoke alarm, but after I came into the fire service I thought, ‘Hey, why not throw it in a backpack?'”

Dewar says ceiling mounted fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in homes are battery operated and very portable, and can and should be taken along on weekend trips.  

“We do it in our homes,” he says. “We need to consider this at other locations as well. The whole idea is to protect ourselves and our friends and our family and our pets.”

Cabin safety

Northerners in all three territory rely on white gas, propane or wood stoves to heat and light cabins. (Sara Minogue/CBC)

Cabin safety Do's and Don'ts

  • DO hire a professional when installing a wood stove. If that’s not possible, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and make sure your stove has been certified by a professional group, like CSA, the Canadian Standards Association.

  • DO learn how to use your wood stove properly. It’s especially important to understand how the damper works and how to control airflow to the fire.

  • DO install a double-walled chimney, if possible. They’ll get less hot to the touch and will last longer.

  • DON’T let snow or ice build up around your chimney.

  • DON’T let chimney seals age and crack.

  • DO keep a pot of water on our stove. Many people like the humidity. This can also be handy if a fire does break out and you need to put it out quickly.

Send us your photos

How do you stay safe when relying on white gas, propane or wood stoves while out camping? 

Send your photos and advice to webnorth@cbc.ca.