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Cooking — inside and outside — is the top cause of Coquitlam house fires: city

Want to light up the barbecue as the days get longer? Coquitlam residents urged to take precautions to avoid potential house fires.
Coquitlam officials say cooking, including barbecuing, has become the top cause of house fires in the city, and are providing tips to help avoid damage, injury or worse. | File photo

Temperatures are (slowly) rising outside as Coquitlam enters the spring season.

And with each day bringing us one step closer to summer, local residents may soon be cooking outdoors.

But did you know that cooking — including barbecuing — is the leading cause of house fires in the city?

Coquitlam firefighters and officials are encouraging property owners to get a head-start on fire precautions as they can save loved ones from injury or death.

The most important step is ensuring all smoke detectors are properly installed and working, said Coquitlam Fire/Rescue inspector Denise Ziebart.

"Working smoke alarms in the home reduce the risk of dying in a house fire by 50 per cent," said Ziebart, noting to always call 911 to report signs of smoke or fire.

"Every home is required to have working smoke alarms installed on each level of the residence and on the ceiling outside of sleeping areas," Ziebart said. 

"Test your smoke alarms monthly, and replace their batteries twice a year. When you change any clocks for standard and daylight savings time, consider checking your batteries at that time. If your smoke alarm is older than 10 years, it is time to replace it."

According to the City of Coquitlam, the top five causes of house fires include:

  • Cooking
  • Heating
  • Electrical
  • Candles
  • Smoking

Ziebart also urges homeowners to map out an escape route as there may be limited time to get out safely when there is a fire.

Plans should consist of two ways to get out of each room, ensure hallways are clear, accessibility measures for those with mobility issues and a muster location outside where everyone can meet.

Ziebart said parents and guardians should teach children how to escape on their own in case no one can help them in a fire emergency.

Tips to reduce the risk of a house fire include:

  • Never leave your cooking unattended, barbecues included
  • Keep all home heating appliances in good working condition
    • ie. furnaces, gas fireplaces, chimneys, space heaters, etc.
  • Plug devices directly into an outlet and not an extension cord, placing them at least one metre away from flammable materials and turning them off while sleeping or when you leave your home
  • Do not overload your home's electrical circuits, check all electrical cords and discard any that are frayed or damaged
    • Extension cords and power bars should be used cautiously and only if necessary
  • Choose battery-operated, flameless candles as an alternative to live flame candles
  • Smoke outside and extinguish any lit matter in a designated ashtray or water, never in garden soil or plant containers

For more information, you can visit the City of Coquitlam's website.