Summer fire prevention tips

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by John R. Okum, Director of Emergency & Protective Services / Fire Chief,
Municipality of North Grenville

The North Grenville fire service has been monitoring outdoor conditions throughout the municipality, especially with the persistent sunny and hot temperatures, and scarce accumulation of rainfall. On July 3, the North Grenville fire service elevated the fire condition level to “high”. On July 9, fire officials issued a total burn ban for the municipality, which will remain in effect until conditions improve enough to lift the ban.

These conditions contribute to the increase of fire risk, particularly with the drying vegetation. Our rural areas have thousands of hectares of treed and grass lands that are susceptible to producing fast moving fires that may be difficult to access and gain control. A brush fire not only destroys valued woodland, it also threatens rural homes, barns and farming operations. There is even an increased fire risk to our urban sector of the municipality. Fires can spread very quickly from one property to another. An exterior fire may easily spread along the ground and ignite combustibles such as fences, sheds, decks and buildings.

On July 10, the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority issued a watershed condition statement advising that conditions in the Rideau River watershed met the threshold for “minor low water” status. The statement is an advisory of watershed conditions and does not impose any mandatory reductions at this stage. Conservation of water use is encouraged.

Potting Soil Fire Risk: A summer-time fire risk many people may be unaware of is how easily a planter or flower bed containing potting soil mixtures can cause a serious fire. Potting soil mixtures do not contain natural earth, but rather mixtures containing products such as fertilizers, peat moss, vermiculite and polystyrene. These soil mixtures may be great for producing beautiful plants, but if not regularly watered can become the source of ignition, especially when there is considerable hot-dry weather.

A simple discarded cigarette in dried potting soil may result in a slow burn that often goes unnoticed. As the soil heats, a slow burn may occur beneath the surface. When the burning soil comes into contact with something combustible such as dried plants or the container, a fire may occur and quickly spread. Some tips to prevent potting soil fires are: keep potting soils well watered; use a clay pot if possible; do not dispose smoking materials in potting soil mixtures; do not place planter containers on or next to combustibles.

The following safety hints are ways to prevent accidental fires from occurring:

BBQ Safety: Keep your BBQ a safe distance from your house and any other combustibles; Always follow the manufacturer recommendations for use; Open the lid before turning the gas on to ignite; never leave your cooking unattended; do not place a BBQ on a deck or balcony.

Pool Chemicals: store chemicals in their original container; store chemicals in accordance with manufacturer recommendations; follow chemical supplier instructions for mixing chemicals.

Extension Cords: extension cords are for temporary use only and should not be used as a permanent electrical connection; always use an extension cord in accordance with its listed rating; if using an extension cord outside, be sure you have purchased a cord that is rated for the outdoors; do not place items on top of an electrical cord, walk or drive over an electrical cord; if a cord is damaged, discontinue using it and replace.

Other:
Use caution when using outdoor candles, torches or burning insect repellents;
Always allow engines to cool before refueling or storing away in a shed or garage;
When refuelling, do so in a well ventilated area and avoid ignition sources;
Be sure flammable or combustible liquids are properly stored and containers are properly closed to prevent vapours from escaping;
If using outdoor gas appliances, be sure all connections are properly secured and leak free;
If you are a smoker, properly dispose of your smoking materials. Do not throw out the window of a vehicle or toss onto the ground;
If filling a portable gasoline container, do not leave in the trunk of your car or the box of your pick-up. Place the container onto the ground and prevent overfilling;
If you have a RV/camper, remember to install a smoke alarm and a carbon monoxide alarm near the sleeping areas.

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