Humid temperatures set off dozens of smoke detectors across Halifax

Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency says it's responding to dozens of calls every day from smoke alarms that are falsely triggered by the humid weather.

Halifax Fire says 30 different false alarms occurred on Monday alone, including 3 at the Halifax Infirmary

Kevin Reade says certain smoke detectors can be set off by humidity. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

Humid weather is causing smoke detectors to go off all over the Halifax Regional Municipality, including three false alarms at the Halifax infirmary.

Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency said on Monday alone it had to respond to 52 calls across the city. Of those, more than half of them were because a smoke alarm was triggered by humidity.

"When humidity is high, we respond to a lot of calls," said Kevin Reade, a division commander for Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency.

"[The majority] of the calls that we had yesterday and today are all due to humidity."

While crews responded to calls at hospitals, businesses, apartments, and homes in the heat on Monday, Reade said most people were surprised to find out humidity is to blame.

Reade said a certain type of smoke detector — called an ionization detector — often mistakes humidity or steam for smoke.

Fire crews say more than half of their calls on Monday were for false alarms triggered by humid temperatures. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

"The ionization ones fall victim to high humidity, burnt food, bugs, dust, debris. Anything like that can set them off," he said.

Reade said people should look at installing a photoelectric smoke detector instead, which will only activate from smoke.

Read said despite the volume of false alarms in the heat, firefighters still treat each one like it's an emergency, and that means sending a crew to each call.

Reade said if you aren't able to change the smoke alarms in your building, there isn't much you can do to prevent them from being set off. Even if you think humidity might be the culprit, you should still call 911.

"If your smoke detector goes off, you have to call the fire department. We're the professionals. We're the ones that can determine whether it's a fire or not," he said.

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Marina von Stackelberg


Marina von Stackelberg is a CBC journalist based in Winnipeg. She previously worked for CBC in Halifax and Sudbury. Connect with her @CBCMarina or