It’s a statistic that perhaps hadn’t been factored into pandemic planning: an increase in fires caused by people who are at staying home – cooking, and smoking, while isolating.
In Toronto, Canada’s most populous city with almost 3 million residents, there have been 17 per cent more fires this year than for the same period last year, many in the last several weeks.
“Unattended cooking and careless smoking are the leading causes,” tweeted Matt Pegg, Toronto’s fire chief and general manager of emergency management, on April 13.
In North America, smoking materials are a leading cause of home fires, and fire fatalities. Now, with daily routines disrupted – staying up later at night, for example – it’s critical to be ultra cautious.
@Toronto_Fire is tweeting NFPA's safety messages to its more than 29,000 followers, and has upped its fire-safety messaging through all types of media.
To be safe, NFPA recommends that smokers smoke outside, and follow these guidelines:
- To prevent a smoking-related fire you must be alert. You will not be alert if you are sleepy, have taken medicine or drugs that make you drowsy, or have consumed alcohol.
- Never smoke in bed.
- Never smoke where medical oxygen is used.
- Use deep, sturdy ashtrays, or a metal can or pail. Place the ashtray or metal can or pail away from anything that can burn.
- Do not throw out cigarettes into vegetation or other material that can easily catch fire, such as potted plants, peat moss or landscaping, dried grass, mulch, or leaves.
- Never empty smoking materials directly into a trash can. Before you throw out butts and ashes, make sure they have been extinguished. Put them out in water or sand.
- Keep smoking materials out of reach of children.
- Fires have occurred while vaping products – including electronic cigarettes – were being used, the battery was being charged, or the device was being transported. Never leave charging e-cigarettes unattended.
NFPA offers safety tip sheets on myriad topics that can guide folks who are working and learning from home. Visit www.nfpa.org/public-education. Follow us on Twitter at @nfpa, @Sparky_Fire_Dog and, in Canada, @LauraKingNFPA.