Act now to prevent home fires, Islanders warned

Recent fatal house fires in Nova Scotia and Ontario have Island fire officials reminding residents to be fire safe as they turn up the heat.

'The big cause is usually the heating appliances within the home'

There are more than 30 fire departments providing services across P.E.I. (Pat Martel/CBC)

Recent fatal house fires in Nova Scotia and Ontario have Island fire officials reminding residents to be fire safe and aware of what to do in the event of a fire. 

P.E.I. fire marshal Dave Rossiter wants to remind Islanders that in the event of a house fire, there may only be up to 60 seconds to escape a home safely.

"In the wintertime, the big cause is usually the heating appliances within the home," Rossiter said.

"Especially after what we went through the past couple of weeks, all heating appliances in the home, whether it's wood, electric, oil, they are all pushed to the maximum."   

Fire and carbon monoxide alarms

With little time to react when a fire starts, Rossiter said, early warning is absolutely crucial to make sure everyone can get out safely.

He said smoke detectors should be installed on every floor of the house and outside all bedrooms. 

Firefighters are asking people to check their smoke detectors and replace batteries if necessary. (iStock)

They should be checked every month to ensure they are working properly and batteries should be changed annually. 

The fire marshal also said Islanders should do the same for carbon monoxide detectors, which should be installed near any fuel or wood burning appliances. 

Wood stoves need cleaning

Winston Bryan, the fire inspector for the Charlottetown Fire Department, said most house fires during winter months are caused by appliances like space heaters or wood burning stoves. 

He said Islanders should make sure their wood burning appliances are well maintained and cleaned before use.

Officials say to keep combustibles 3 feet away from space heaters. (CBC)

"With using a wood boiler of some sort, have a certified, qualified person come and check the flue make, sure the flue has a liner in it, no cracks and it's clean — and burning seasoned wood," Bryan said.

He also said all space heaters should be kept at least three feet away from curtains, blankets or any other flammable materials. They also should never be plugged into extension cords or power bars, he added, because they may not be able to support the electrical needs of the appliance. 

When the alarm sounds

Bryan also said many fire departments on the Island encourage people to create escape route maps that can be submitted to the station to help firefighters determine where bedrooms are located.

All family members should know where to go in the event of an emergency. (CBC)

Islanders shouldn't just create fire escape plans, Rossiter said, they should practice them too.

He added that if there is a fire, the most important thing to remember is to get out of the house as safely as possible and not go back into the house. He said to call 911 from your meeting place and wait for firefighters to arrive. 

"And have somebody there to meet the fire department when they show up," Rossiter said.

"Because if people leave and the fire department shows up they may think someone is still inside the home and they will start to do a rescue operation which could be a risky operation."


Brittany Spencer is a multi-platform journalist with CBC P.E.I. Email: