Fire ban lifted following record month of calls

By Jake Davies - West Carleton Online

WEST CARLETON – For a fire ban, there sure were a lot of fires in April.

Today (May 6) Ottawa Fire Services lifted the month-long fire ban within the city’s boundaries.

“Remember, City of Ottawa residents must obtain an Open Air Fire Permit (Burn Permit) in order to have an open air fire,” the OFS released in a statement today. “All burn permits are issued and regulated under the Open Air Fire By-law No. 2004-163. Prior to setting an open air fire, you must first contact the OFS Communications Centre at 613-580-2880.”

Despite a fire ban put in place April 1, the OFS responded to a record number of bush and grass fires in the month.

The OFS dealt with more than 180 burn complaints in April, most of them in the rural areas and two of them large grass fires in West Carleton. The April 27 fire in Galetta required nearly 90 firefighters and spread across 10 acres destroying two barns in the process. Another 33 fighters battled a grass fire in MacLaren’s Landing almost at the same time.

“Busier than a one-legged waitress at an IHOP (International House of Pancakes restaurant),” OFS OFS District 6 Chief Bill Bell told West Carleton Online on April 27. “It’s the 80-20 rule. Eighty per cent abide by the rule, the other 20 per cent think ‘it’s just a small fire’.”

That represents a huge jump compared to past Aprils the OFS confirmed. Officials believe the time spent at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic may be a contributing factor.

Since Jan. 1, fire fatalities across Ontario increased by 65 per cent compared to the same time last year, with 17 Ontarians dying in fires in March alone.

“I urge you to be vigilant in preventing fires in your home, especially now with so many people at home practicing physical distancing because of COVID-19,” City of Ottawa fire Chief, Kim Ayotte. “It’s just as important that you test your smoke alarms and practice your home fire escape plan.”

Between Jan. 1 and May 4, there were 31 fire fatalities in Ontario. Over that same period this year, there have been 51 fire fatalities.

“Only you can make sure these types of tragedies do not happen in Ottawa,” Ayotte said. “You need to do everything you can to prevent a fire in your home.”

There are simple things that you can do to prevent a fire from happening in your home and ensure that everyone knows what to do if a fire starts.

Reduce fire risks in your home:

  • Always stay in the kitchen when you are cooking. Unattended cooking is a leading cause of home fires.
  • Keep a close eye on anyone drinking alcohol and attempting to cook or smoke.
  • Encourage smokers to smoke outside the home and outside the garage. Thoroughly extinguish all smoking materials in water or sand.
  • Always blow out candles before leaving the room.
  • Avoid overloading electrical outlets. Extension cords should be used only as a temporary connection. Avoid running electrical cords under rugs, which can damage the cords and cause a fire.
  • Ensure items that can burn are at least one metre away from space heaters.
  • Do not attempt to sterilize or decontaminate face masks for re-use by heating them in a microwave oven. Various fabric or metal components can overheat or create sparks and cause a fire if heated in a microwave.
  • Test smoke alarms monthly by pressing the test button. Only working smoke alarms can give you the early warning you need to safely escape a fire in your home.
  • Ensure everyone knows two ways out of each room, if possible. 
  • All exits must be unobstructed and easy to use. 
  • Determine who will be responsible for helping young children, older adults and anyone who needs assistance to escape.
  • Choose a meeting place outside, such as a tree or a lamp post, where everyone can be accounted for. 
  • Call the fire department from outside the home, from a cell phone or a neighbour’s home.
  • Once out, stay out. Never re-enter a burning building.
  • If you live in an apartment or high-rise building talk to the building superintendent to learn about the emergency procedures outlined in the building’s fire safety plan.
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