Wildfires are natural threats to any forested area or grassland region across the country. Not only do they do a number on our environment, but they can displace thousands of people and do significant damage to their homes. While many wildfires occur naturally (often due to hot, dry weather and lightning strikes), many are caused by people and can be easily prevented.
Here are a few simple things you can do to help reduce the risk of wildfires at home, on the road, at the cottage, or on the campsite:
- Take fire bans and local laws seriously. Before you light any kind of fire (whether you’re burning yard waste or prepping for a campfire), check with the local fire authority to make sure you’re not in a restricted fire zone or an area currently under a fire ban. Many communities with forested areas also post fire danger rating signs to let residents and visitors know whether or not it’s safe to have a fire at any given time. Not only is lighting a fire during a fire ban extremely dangerous, but it could land you with a hefty fine from local authorities, too.
- Keep candles covered. Whether you’re repelling mosquitos with a citronella candle or setting the mood with a tea-light lantern, place all candles in sturdy containers that can’t be easily knocked over, and keep them away from flammable materials.
- Contain your campfire. If you’re planning on having a campfire in an area where it’s permitted, keep these tips in mind to prevent it from turning into a wildfire:
- Pick a spot that’s close to a water source and sheltered from the wind, at least three metres away from logs, stumps, trees, branches, or other debris, and 15 metres away from buildings or tents.
- Build your campfire on bare dirt or a rock surface and surround it with a ring of rocks to help keep it contained; remove any debris like pine needles, grass, leaves, or twigs from the area.
- Keep it small — fires smaller than one metre high and one metre wide are easiest to control and put out.
- Before you light your fire, make sure you have a bucket of at least eight litres of water and a shovel on hand to help contain or put out the fire in an emergency.
- Never leave your campfire unattended (not even for a few minutes).
- Before you leave the area or when you’re finished enjoying your campfire, pour lots of water on it, then stir it with a stick or shovel. Then, pour more water on it to make sure it’s out (the ashes should be soaking wet and cool to the touch).
- Dunk your cigarette butts in water. If you smoke, be sure to do so away from flammable materials (like trees and dry leaves), and ash into an ashtray or other non-flammable container. When you’re done, make sure your cigarette butt is entirely extinguished. A good way to do this is to drop the butt into a half-empty bottle or bucket of water and let it soak. Never throw a cigarette butt from the window of your vehicle when you’re driving through a forested or grassy area.
- Steer clear of tall grass. Some motorized vehicles (like ATVs and dirt bikes) can release a significant amount of heat from their exhaust systems — and this heat can be enough to spark a wildfire. When the weather is hot and dry, avoid driving these types of motorized vehicles through tall grass and other vegetation; stick to the road or gravel or dirt paths instead.
- Be careful with fireworks. Never set off fireworks during a fire ban or in an area with flammable materials around. Consider going to see a fireworks show put on by professionals (this is your safest bet), or if you’re in a situation where you’re allowed to set off your own fireworks, do so in an open space at least a few hundred feet wide, like on a beach. Read the instructions carefully and keep water and fire extinguishers nearby. Be sure to keep track of where the fireworks land and make sure they’re properly extinguished.
- Skip the yard waste bonfire. If you were planning on burning that ever-growing pile of grass, wood debris, and other yard waste on your property, consider composting it or taking it to your local landfill site instead. If you must burn yard waste, follow local bylaws (a permit may be required, for example) and ask your local fire authority what safety practices you’re required to follow.
While there’s a lot you can do to help prevent a wildfire, not all types of wildfires can be prevented. Learn what to do during and after a wildfire and reach out to your insurance broker to make sure you have the coverage you need to protect your home and seasonal property.
Want to learn more about protecting your seasonal property? Check out these little-known facts about seasonal property insurance and consider these tips before you rent out your cottage.
Share these tips on Facebook or Twitter to help your friends prevent wildfires, too.