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3 tips to help you safely enjoy your outdoor fireplace

Published on July 19, 2021


Has spending more time at home or at the cottage made you use your outdoor fireplace more or are you planning to install one in your backyard? This new reality, unfortunately, affects a great proportion of the population and results in an increase in the risk of fires. Statistics issued by the Société de protection des forêts contre le feu (SOPFEU) indicate a sharp rise in forest fires caused by residents since the start of 2020. The L’Unique General Insurance team has put together some tips to help you enjoy wonderful evenings around your outdoor fireplace!

1. Stay on top of municipal bylaws

Before you buy, install or use an outdoor fireplace, it’s important that you look into the current municipal bylaws in effect regarding the use and installation of outdoor fireplaces in order to reduce the risk of fires and avoid warnings or fines.

Bylaws governing this type of activity varies from one municipality to another. Some prohibit campfires, at all times, in an urban area, whereas others require residents to obtain a permit. However, most municipalities in the province allow outdoor fires as long as residents follow specific rules for installation and use.

2. Before buying a new outdoor fireplace, weigh the pros and cons.

It’s really worth your while to weigh the pros and cons of the different types of outdoor fireplaces available on the market. Doing so will allow you to invest in a compliant and safe unit that’s tailored to your needs that you can enjoy on many beautiful evenings outdoors for years to come.

Here are a few things to consider:

Outdoor wood fireplaces
Risks of fires: Despite the unique warmth and appeal a wood fireplace brings, the risk of fire is still very high. The sparks and ashes produced by wood cause many residential fires.

Fuel: You will need to buy and store firewood for this type of unit.

Use: Firewood must be prepared and maintained. You’ll need to control and extinguish the fire, but also see to residual ashes. Lastly, when campfires are banned, your municipality may completely prohibit this type of unit.

Accessories: Several municipalities require residents to have a compliant fire screen and chimney. Some accessories, such as a poker, must be used to maintain and control the fire.

Installation: They should generally be installed on a non-combustible surface such as pavement or gravel. The units must also be set a certain distance from the property line and other combustible materials.

Outdoor gas fireplaces
Risks of fires: Since gas fireplaces don’t generate sparks, they are less likely to cause a fire than wood-burning ones, but obviously, provided that they be used properly and fuel is handled correctly.

To ensure your unit is safe, make sure it is CSA- or ULC-certified.

Fuel: Use: Although gas fireplaces generate less heat and lack the appeal of wood fireplaces, there is virtually no maintenance and preparation. Simply turn on the gas supply and flip the switch and enjoy your fireplace and then close the fireplace and supply to turn it off. It’s important to exercise caution and comply with the applicable safety rules and measures at all times.

As a general rule, they can be used during a ban on campfires, unless otherwise specified by your municipality.

Accessories: No additional accessory is required to use a natural gas fireplace.

Installation: You must follow the manufacturer's instructions and recommendations at all times. Installing the fireplace on a stable, level surface by making sure it is clear from any combustible material is one of the key things to do.

  • Risks of fires
  • Fuel – cost, storage and handling
  • Ease of use
  • Accessories
  • Installation – cost, layout and equipment
  • Propane cylinders are easily accessible and affordable. However, to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and fire, it’s essential that you exercise caution when using, storing and transporting the propane cylinder.
  • Natural gas may be an interesting and cost-efficient option if there is a natural gas distribution system in your area and your home is connected to one of the distribution lines.

3. Always exercise caution when using your outdoor fireplace.

Want to spend an evening by the fire? Before you take out the marshmallows and bug spray, take the necessary precautions and make sure you know the safety rules that apply to your outdoor fireplace.

Wood-burning fireplaces
Gas fireplaces

  • Before lighting a fire, go to your municipality’s website to see if your unit is compliant, if you need a permit and if there is a fire ban in effect.
  • Do not light outdoor fires when strong winds are blowing
  • Make sure there are no flammable materials near the fire. Make sure to pick up any dead leaves or flammable residue that the wind may blow into the fire.
  • Also be sure that an adult is present at all times while the fire is burning and he or she takes responsibility for monitoring and controlling the fire.
  • Wait until it’s dark before you light your fire. You’ll be able to more easily see the sparks and embers from your fireplace and make sure they don't cause damage or burns.
  • Do not use accelerants to start a fire. Use only newspaper or wood.
  • Use only fresh logs for this purpose to keep the fire under control. Never use branches, grass, waste, construction waste, painted or treated wood, toxic materials or plastic.
  • Make sure to always keep the necessary fire extinguishing equipment on hand: a portable fire extinguisher, a bucket of water or a hose with a pistol nozzle.
  • Before going to bed or leaving the premises, it’s important that you put out the fire completely. To do so, spread out the embers and extinguish your fire with lots of water. Make sure the embers are not live. Embers that are not properly extinguished remain hot for several hours and can burst into flames.
  • Dispose of ashes safely: let them cool off completely, for at least 72 hours, before throwing them away. If you need to remove them from your fireplace before the recommended 72 hours have elapsed, place them in a metal container with a raised bottom and leave them outdoors for a few days, away from any flammable material. Make sure they have completely cooled before disposing of the ashes or composting them.
  • Always follow the owner’s manual instructions and recommendations for your fireplace.
  • Use only fuel that is recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Before lighting the fireplace, make sure it’s in good working order. Do not use it if it is damaged.
  • Never smoke when you light your fireplace.
  • Remember that even when it is switched off, the surfaces of your fireplace can remain very hot. Take the necessary precautions to avoid fires or burns.

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