Skip navigation
All Places > Safety Source > Blog > Author: lking

Safety Source

7 Posts authored by: lking Employee

Three townhouse fires in three municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area in 10 days is unusual.


Although there’s no pattern to the fires (and no fatalities or injuries), there are similarities – particularly the extent of fire spread – that should alert residents to plan and practice their escape.


A fire in Oakville, Ont., on Aug. 4 damaged four units in a seven-unit townhouse complex. Chief Paul Boissonneault told a local news website the fire was a challenge to fight because the units backed onto a lake and were inaccessible from the rear.


“One of the units was heavily involved with fire coming out the upper windows and through the roof upon arrival,” Boissonneault said. “The roofline was already breeching on the neighbouring unit to the east.”




A July 26 fire at a townhouse complex in Richmond Hill, northeast of Toronto, affected 16 homes.




Twelve hours later, an early morning fire on July 27 in Stoney Creek, west of Toronto, started in the backyard of attached townhomes and was swept by wind down the roofline. Eleven units were severely damaged.




Andrea Gaynor, an investigator with the Ontario Office of the Fire Marshal, told CBC News there was no early detection because the fire started outside and intensified as it engulfed the building.


NFPA recommends that residents have two ways out of every room, that home escape plans be practiced at least twice a year, and that residents have an outside meeting place – a tree or mailbox or a nearby neighbour’s driveway.


If there are infants, older adults, or family members with mobility limitations, make sure someone is assigned to help them.


NFPA offers safety tips on myriad topics. Visit Follow us on Twitter at @nfpa, @Sparky_Fire_Dog and, in Canada, @LauraKingNFPA

As if there were any doubt that cats rule, a rescue named Joey woke his sleeping owners and alerted them to a malfunctioning slow cooker – while the family dog slept.


According to CBC News, the family in the Newfoundland town Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s was rustled from sleep by Joey, at about 4:30 a.m. on April 30.



“He was standing on my chest,” owner Scott White told the Toronto Sun. (Joey had been adopted in Toronto in 2017 and then moved with the family to Newfoundland.)


 “He had his paw on my cheek, desperately trying to wake me up,” White said.


 “As soon as I awoke and I could smell the burning dinner from the kitchen, it didn’t take long to get out of bed.”

 The source of Joey’s anxiety was a slow cooker. White found a “haze” in the kitchen, and immediately turned off the appliance and opened a window.


While slow cookers – or crock pots – are meant to operate for several hours at a time, manufacturers, and NFPA, recommend that users observe several safety steps, which you can find in NFPA Educational Messages, Chapter 8, page 17 (s.8.7 Portable Cooking Equipment Safety):


  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions on how and where to use a slow cooker. Most manufacturers recommend keeping at least six inches (15 centimetres) of clearance around the appliance.
  • Keep things that could catch fire away from the slow cooker.
  • Inspect the cord to the slow cooker to be sure that it has not been damaged. Do not use any appliance with a damaged cord.
  • Make sure the slow cooker is in a place where it won’t get bumped. If the lid gets dislodged, the liquid could boil away, the appliance could overheat, and a fire could occur.


Several manufacturers recommend placing slow cookers on hard surfaces such as tile or ceramic rather than wooden butcher-block type counters and making sure the appliance is on low if cooking for eight hours or longer.


In addition, working smoke alarms on every level of the home provide early detection and will ensure residents are alerted to smoke or fire. For peace of mind, use appliances such as slow cookers, clothes dryers and dishwashers only while someone is home, awake and alert. 


Meanwhile, the White family puppy – which is just 10 months old – has some guard-dog training to do!


NFPA offers safety tips on myriad topics. Visit Follow us on Twitter at @nfpa, @Sparky_Fire_Dog and, in Canada, @LauraKingNFPA.


It’s not unusual for the mother of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to be in the news. Margaret Sinclair Trudeau is a celebrity in her own right – author, speaker, and mental-health advocate.


But Ms. Trudeau, 71, made headlines in late April for another reason: she was hospitalized, briefly, for smoke inhalation, after a fire that started on the terrace of her Montreal apartment.



Spring in eastern Canada is fleeting and, like so many who are house-bound with little or no greenspace, Trudeau used a propane patio heater to ward off the evening chill.


Montreal fire department section chief Matthew Griffin told CTV News the fire was accidental, caused by combustible material coming into contact with the propane patio heater.


About 70 firefighters responded; the fire was contained to one apartment but three other families evacuated the building.



With long weekends approaching – Victoria Day in Canada and Memorial Day in the U.S. – outdoor heaters are likely to be a center point of small gatherings with immediate family.


Similar to barbecues and other outdoor appliances, users of patio heaters should follow manufacturer’s instructions, and these safety tips:


  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet (one metre) away from heating equipment.
  • Keep a three-foot (one-metre) kid free zone around propane patio heaters.
  • Turn off the heater when you leave the area or go to bed.
  • Avoid using these types of appliances if you are tired or have taken alcohol or drugs that make you sleepy.
  • Make sure the heater has an anti-tilt or anti-tip switch so the pilot light turns off if the appliance is tipped.
  • Provide adequate clearances around air openings to the combustion chamber to prevent a build-up of carbon monoxide.


NFPA offers safety tip sheets on myriad topics that can guide folks who are working and learning from home. Visit Follow us on Twitter at @nfpa, @Sparky_Fire_Dog and, in Canada, @LauraKingNFPA.


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 Follow us on Twitter at @nfpa, @Sparky_Fire_Dog and, in Canada, @LauraKingNFPA.




Not everyone has the luxury of working from home in these weeks of restrictions. And that means kids old enough to stay alone or to mind younger siblings may be tasked to make lunches, prep dinners, and be responsible for safety.


While YouTube can teach a pre-teen to create a healthy, Insta-worthy dinner for work-weary family members, cooking safety is as important as on-hand ingredients and deliciousness.


NFPA recommends that parents or caregivers take time to review overall safety measures with kids who are at home on their own or with siblings, and ensure they understand how much responsibility they can handle.


A helpful lesson, Home Fire Safety – Teens Who Care for Themselves and Others in the Home,

provides core behaviours for families to cover:

  • Have a home escape plan and an outside meeting place
  • Know the sound of the smoke alarm is a signal to get out of the house
  • Be able to unlock all doors and windows that could be used as emergency exits
  • Use the stove or microwave only if you have been taught how
  • Stay in the kitchen while cooking
  • Keep anything that can burn away from the stove
  • If cooking on the stove keep a lid nearby; if a pan catches fire, slide the lid over the pan to put the fire out and turn off the burner
  • If younger children are in the home, keep them at least 3 feet (1 meter) away from the stove, oven or microwave
  • Know how and when to get help; have access to a phone and know how to call 911
  • Do not use matches or lighters; keep them away from young children.
  • If you get burned while cooking, run the burn under cool water for 3 to 5 minutes. Call an adult to let them know what happened so they can determine if medical attention is needed.


Parents should emphasize that if there’s a fire, the responsible teen has one job: to get him/herself and other children out of the home and to safety, then call the fire department.


NFPA offers safety tip sheets on myriad topics that can guide folks who are working and learning from home. Visit Follow us on Twitter at @nfpa, @Sparky_Fire_Dog and, in Canada, @LauraKingNFPA.



It brightens the day to hear great stories about fire prevention and public education. Here’s one, from Jeff Corriveau, division chief of public education in Springwater, Ontario.


“Just wanted to let you know about a very successful fire-prevention undertaking here in Springwater, and it couldn’t have happened without the NFPA and Sparky.


“We ran a program called Ask Sparky, with the Grade 1 and 2 students in our township. This program gave the students the opportunity to write a letter to Sparky. Questions could be about the fire service, Sparky the Fire Dog, fire trucks, fire safety, firefighters, or anything fire-related. This increased students’ knowledge of fire safety, and it’s also a fun way to practise literacy skills. We got a huge buy-in from the schools, as this fit perfectly into the Grade 1 and 2 curriculums.”


Essentially, the fire department arranged to visit the classes with Sparky, and explained to students that they could write letters to Sparky, and Sparky would write back; there were prizes too! Teachers collected the letters and contacted the department.


“We answered the letters and returned with Sparky. Sparky handed out the replies and the prizes. The kids and the teachers loved it,” Corriveau said.


Firefighters visited 12 classes, answered 248 letters (Sparky’s typing skills improved greatly over the course of the program!), and teachers have asked that the program run next year. 


“The NFPA,” Corriveau said, “was invaluable in supplying the persona of Sparky and the licensed gifts we got from our Canadian suppliers. Keep up the great work!!”




Teaching public education is sometimes like coaching very young hockey players; you never know quite how much information is getting through until little Johnny puts the puck deep, gives chase, then passes to a teammate in front of the net to score – just as practised!


Capt. Robert Taylor, a paid on-call firefighter for the City of Maple Ridge Fire Department in British Columbia, was part of a team delivering a kindergarten-to-Grade 3 fire safety program in the city’s elementary schools a few weeks ago.


“Later that week he was doing some driver training with another member,” said Maple Ridge Assistant Chief Timo Juurakko, “and had an experience that I asked him to put into writing.”


 Capt. Taylor takes it from here:


“The other day I was working in school doing K-3 pub-ed. As you know, the thought is always in your head – are we making a difference?


“Later that evening I was out doing a new driver training lesson when we came across a stranded vehicle in the middle of an intersection. We pulled to the side of the road and went to try and help, along with another female, who had also stopped to help.


“We got the vehicle to a safe spot, and the second female returned to her vehicle.


Capt. Robert Taylor of Maple Ridge Fire Department in British Columbia

“Just as we were returning to our lesson I heard the second female say, ‘So you are Capt. Taylor. Thanks to you, we have now checked our smoke alarms, and are working on our escape plans. I cannot even leave the kitchen unless I turn off the pans!’


“As I looked in the back of her vehicle, I saw a young boy waving. He was one of the students we had been with in school.


“Guess we can make a difference.”


He shoots. He scores!

Filter Blog

By date: By tag: