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It’s an annual ritual performed by many Canadians each year – opening the cottage. This annual opening of the cottage signals the start of another summer of fun, rest and relaxation.

It’s great to relax at the cottage, but our safety standards shouldn’t be relaxed. Minimize your risk from fire at the cottage by following these safety guidelines.

Cottage Fire Safety
  • In an emergency, please make sure emergency responders can find you – SECONDS DO COUNT! Know where you are! Ensure that you and your guests know the exact location of your cottage. Post the address, access instructions and emergency phone numbers by the phone and inform everyone where it can be found.
  • Confirm the local emergency numbers for police, fire and ambulance. Is 911 service available in the area?
  • Most cottages are in more remote areas that may not provide cell phone coverage. Check your cell phone coverage at the cottage.
  • When you call 911 from a regular land phone line emergency services receive enhanced 911 data indicating the address and municipality of where the call is originating, should the caller be unable to provide this information. This enhanced 911 data is not available for cell phone calls, so ensuring everyone at the cottage knows the exact location in the event of an emergency is critical in obtaining a timely response from emergency services.
  • When vacationing in an isolated area, keep in mind that help from emergency services may be some distance away. It’s vitally important that you eliminate your risk from fire and have a fire escape plan in place that everyone at the cottage is familiar with and has practised. Refer to our Fire Escape Plan Guidelines to assist you in developing a fire escape plan for your cottage.

Opening the Cottage

  • The Ontario Fire Code considers a cottage a residence and as such requires smoke alarms on every storey and outside all sleeping areas.
  • Carbon monoxide alarms should be installed in all residences with fuel-burning appliances. Follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions. The primary location for installation is outside any sleeping areas. Additional carbon monoxide alarms can be installed near any fuel-burning appliance within the residence.
  • Test all smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms; replace batteries, as needed. Ensure you have battery-powered back-up alarms to alert you during a hydro outage at your cottage.
  • Inspect hydro lines servicing your cottage for tree or storm damage and report any damage to the local utility for repair.
  • Inspect indoor and outdoor wiring for damage by mice or other rodents. Have an electrician repair any damage found.
  • Have propane-powered appliances like stoves, refrigerators and heaters inspected and repaired, if necessary, by a qualified technician. Install a propane leak alarm at floor level, no more than 6 inches above the floor or lowest level to alert you in the event of a propane leak. Propane is heavier than air and propane vapours tend to pool in low spots.
  • Install a fully charged multi-purpose or ABC fire extinguisher in a visible, easily accessible location near an exit where escape is also an option. Make sure everyone knows where it is and how to use it. If you already have a fire extinguisher installed, check the pressure gauge to ensure it’s fully charged, indicated by the needle in the green area. A partially discharged fire extinguisher is always considered an empty one – have it refilled or replaced immediately. Also keep in mind that the dry powder chemical inside the extinguisher tends to pack down in the bottom of the extinguisher over time, which may make it ineffective. Once a month pick up the fire extinguisher, check the gauge or pin for pressure, turn it upside down and hit the bottom sharply with your hand, then shake it well. This should dislodge any compacted dry chemical inside the extinguisher. Most fire extinguishers have a lifespan of 5 to 15 years.
  • Most residential fire extinguishers discharge in 8-10 seconds with a range of only 2 – 3.5 metres (6 – 10 feet). They should only be used to extinguish small, contained fires or to reduce a fire sufficiently to allow escape.
  • Remember, DON’T FIGHT A FIRE unless you call the fire department first! A fire extinguisher is no substitute for the fire department.
  • Ensure family members know how to use the extinguishers and understand which extinguishers are effective on what types of fires.
  • Clean up and remove any rubbish, fallen leaves, branches and dried brush surrounding the cottage. Maintain an open area around the cottage to create a firebreak. Gravel, stone or brick pathways make a good firebreak. Green, actively growing grasses, ground covers and flowers are more fire-resistant.
  • Check exhaust vents and flues for all fuel-burning appliances to ensure they are free of obstructions or debris.
  • Have your chimney and fireplace cleaned and inspected yearly for creosote build-up, cracks, crumbling bricks or mortar and any obstructions. This is best done by a professional chimney sweep.
  • If you burn wood in a stove or fireplace, keep your chimney clean and use a screened chimney cap to catch sparks and embers.
  • Burn only dry, well-seasoned hardwood to minimize creosote build-up.
  • Place ashes outdoors in a covered metal container at least one metre (3 feet) away from anything that can burn. Don’t set the container on a wooden porch floor or any other combustible surface.
  • Always use a fireplace screen to prevent sparks from escaping from the fireplace.
  • Stack any firewood or lumber well away from the building.
  • Dispose of old cleaning solvents, fuels and paints, etc. at a hazardous waste disposal centre.
  • Maintain fuse boxes, heaters, wiring, stoves, and other possible heat sources in good operating condition.
  • Store all flammable liquids in approved containers OUTSIDE the cottage. Never store gasoline, propane cylinders or other highly flammable liquids inside or adjacent to the cottage.
  • Keep highly flammable fibreglass boats and canoes away from the building.
  • Establish safe campfire rules to be followed at the cottage.
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