5 common causes of house fires in winter and how to prevent them

5 common causes of house fires in winter and how to prevent them

House fires can happen at any time of the year. Below are 5 common causes of house fires and tips on how to avoid ending up outside in your pyjamas!

1. Heating units and electric baseboards

Winter weather forces many of us to use portable heating units in rooms that may not be as well insulated and cooler.

Unfortunately, when a flammable object is too close to such a source, it can catch fire.

Always create enough clearance around the units and keep an eye on these appliances.

When an appliance is old or is a little rough for the wear – frayed power cord, damaged plug – have it repaired BEFORE using it.

Pay close attention to electric baseboards. Make sure curtains aren’t touching and move furniture – especially fabric sofas and chairs – away.

2. Overloading outlets and extension cords

Winter days are shorter, are often grey and end in late afternoon. There’s much less sunlight.

The solution: turn on every light in the house.

However, avoid overloading your outlets with extension cords.

Use certified (CSA, ULC or UL) multiplug power bars. Use ones with good-quality surge protectors for your electronic devices – computer, TV, etc.

Always check the condition of an extension cord before using it. When in doubt, buy a new one. Avoid connecting several extension cords together.

3. The dryer

Nothing beats the fresh smell of laundry dried on a clothesline! However, in winter, most people use the dryer.

It’s important to keep in mind that, if poorly maintained, this appliance can cause fires.

The main causes of dryer fires are:

  • The accumulation of lint in the exhaust duct
  • Leftovers from fabric softener sheets that clog the filter.
  • Faulty parts or wiring.

To prevent dryer fires, follow the safety precautions in the owner’s manual, inspect the duct and filter regularly, and never let it run when you’re not home or overnight.

4. Candles

Winter is cocooning season – cozying up in pyjamas is the thing to do!

For the best R&R, dim the lights and light a few candles.

To avoid fire:

  • Use glass or metal candle holders.
  • Opt for ones with wax drip trays.
  • Place the holders on level surfaces.
  • Always ensure enough clearance around candles to avoid igniting nearby flammable objects – curtains, pillows.
  • Keep candles and matches away from children.
  • Never leave candles unattended and put them out before leaving the room.

5. The barbecue

Are you’re a year-round barbecuer?

If so, then you most likely place the BBQ as close to the door as possible, slip on a coat, hat and boots (that you don’t bother to zip or tie up) and start barbecuing. This doesn’t sound very safe. What safety precautions should you take?

Be careful when placing a grill so close to the house. The flames could cook more than what’s on the grill...

To use a barbecue in winter safely:

  • Keep it away from the house, just like you do in the summer
  • Dress properly and accordingly (zip up your coat and tie your laces to avoid tripping)
  • Keep a bucket of snow handy in case you need to put out a stubborn flame

What if a fire happens despite your best precautions? Once the situation is under control, contact your insurer to ask about the claim process.