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How to prevent fires

Published on October 11, 2022


On this Fire Prevention Week taking place between October 9 and 15, we wish to remind you of a few safety habits you can adopt. Prevention remains the best method to avoid hassles and home insurance claims.

The main causes of residential fires

Cooking fires

One in four residential fires starts in the kitchen. You must remain vigilant every time you’re cooking.

  • Don’t place flammable items on the stove or in the oven, even for short periods.
  • Never leave your stove unattended if it’s on.
  • Make sure all cooking appliances are turned off before you leave your home.
  • Clean your range hood on a regular basis.
  • Use a fryer with a thermostat instead of frying on the stove.
  • Use a timer to calculate the cooking time of your food.

Wood heating

If you have a wood stove or fireplace, you need to take a few precautions:

  • Have the chimney swept at least once a year.
  • Air out the room in which the wood stove or fireplace is located.
  • Clear out the area around the wood stove or fireplace.
  • Use high-quality, dry wood.
  • Store your cords of wood outside, far away from your house.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector in the room containing your wood stove or fireplace.

Electrical devices and heating systems

Since we use our electrical devices every day, we must be doubly cautious:

  • Call a qualified electrician for any jobs that require the installation and repair of electrical systems.
  • Have your primary heating system verified occasionally by a certified professional if the heat source is flammable.
  • Clear out the areas above and below the radiators. Make sure the curtains and couches do not come into contact with the radiators.
  • Use multi-outlet strips with integrated circuit breakers if you need to plug in several devices into a single outlet.
  • Don’t use extension cords as permanent solutions. Have additional electrical outlets installed by an electrician instead.
  • Replace all damaged cables and extension cords right away.
  • Never plug in a device with stripped wires.
  • Don’t remove the third prong from a plug (ground outlet).
  • Never leave batteries connected to a charger unattended.

Smoking devices

Smoking devices account for over 400 building fires in Quebec each year. If you smoke at home, whether it’s indoors or outdoors, do it safely.


  • Use a deep, wide-brimmed ashtray to prevent stubs from getting knocked over.
  • Place it on a stable surface away from flammable objects such as curtains.
  • Don’t smoke in bed or anywhere else you might fall asleep.
  • Make sure the cigarette is properly extinguished.
  • Let the stubs cool and pour water over them before disposing of them in the trash.
  • Store lighters and matches in a safe area, out of reach of children.


  • Use a can filled with sand and water as an ashtray.
  • Make sure the stubs are not exposed to wind.
  • Never put out a cigarette in a flower pot or flower bed. Potting soil contains flammable material, like peat moss.


We tend to associate the laundry room with water damage. But dryers can also be a source of fire. Flames usually ignite due to the improper use or poor maintenance of the dryer. To avoid fires:

  • Clean out the lint filter before and after each use.
  • Empty the dryer vents once or twice per year.
  • Never leave your dryer unattended when in use.
  • Don’t overload it. Filling it to three-quarters capacity increases the risk of overheating.
  • Don’t put oil-stained clothes or other flammable liquids in the dryer.

Safety devices

In addition to adopting safety habits, make sue you have safety devices. They can save your life.

Smoke detectors

If your residence catches fire, you have less than 3 minutes to evacuate the premises. So you better make sure you have smoke detectors. It is estimated that 90% of deaths caused by residential fires could have been avoided with a functioning smoke detector.

What type of detector should you opt for?

The classic smoke detector with a 10V battery remains the most commonly used model. However, we recommend that you replace it with a lithium battery detector that can last up to 10 years.

Note that all smoke detectors must comply with Canadian norms and bear the ULC logo from the Underwriters' Laboratories of Canada.

Where to install your detectors

Make sure everyone in your home can hear the smoke detector if it goes off. Place one on every floor:

  • In the hallways near the bedrooms
  • In any room in which you sleep with the doors closed
  • Near the stairs
  • In the basement

Install them:

  • On the ceiling (a minimum of 10 cm from the wall) or on the wall (a minimum of 10 to 30 cm from the ceiling)
  • One meter away from any ventilator, air conditioner, plug or air return

Portable fire extinguisher

This handy device could help you avoid a lot of damage in the event of a fire. Note that the extinguisher can only be used once. Make sure it’s inspected every year.

Which type of portable fire extinguisher should you opt for?

For your home, go with a 5-lb ABC powder extinguisher. You’ll be able to put out fires involving:

  • Flammable materials
  • Flammable liquids or fuel
  • Live electric appliances

Much like the smoke detector, make sure the extinguisher bears a certification seal from a recognized organization such as the Underwriters' Laboratories of Canada (ULC).

Your insurance broker is there to help you prevent losses. Contact him or her!