Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Firefighter offers home safety tips that could save your life

Home cooking left unattended is most common cause of house fires, with charging batteries for electric scooters and e-bikes a growing concern.
A firefighter pours water through the gable end of the roof of a Prince George house on Merritt Road on March 8. It was one of 20 residential fires Prince George has had in 2023.

Of the 20 house fires in Prince George so far this year, eight of them were caused by kitchen cooking.

It can happen quickly. Maybe the kids are fighting in the other room  or you leave the barbecue on the deck up against the vinyl siding and forget it’s still on. But all it takes is one distraction and it can soon turn into a disaster.

“Unattended cooking is the leading cause residential fires, so when someone is cooking it is essential to stay in the kitchen and supervise the cooking process,” said Steve Feeney, Prince George Fire Rescue chief fire prevention officer.

“There are several factors that can cause house fires - unattended cooking, cigarette use, space heaters, dryers and woodburning appliances not being well maintained, electrical component failure, and accidental human caused.”

According to Feeney, this hasn’t been a particularly bad year for residential fires. There were 36 last year and 26 in 2021 in Prince George. The most recent house fire a few weeks ago was attributed to use of a portable space heater and Feeney says people need to follow manufacturers specifications and watch they don’t place them too close to combustible material.

Electric scooters and e-bikes are growing in popularity and that brings a new fire hazard that has prompted fire departments in larger cities to issue warning about the dangers of battery charging. Feeney says the lithium-ion batteries sometimes wear out and replacement batteries that are CSA- or ULC-approved can be expensive. So people will buy cheaper after-market alternatives that are not compatible with certain types of chargers. Left overnight in storage areas, they overheat and can explode violently, shooting out flames that cause larger fires.

This is the time to test smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Give them fresh batteries and replace units that aren’t working. They should be in every bedroom and in the hallway outside each bedroom and on every level.

A fire drill could also save your life. Feeney says it's essential for people to have at least two escape routes and practice using them. Keep a hammer or heavy object by your bedroom window in case you need to break it to leave the house quickly in a fire. It takes only minutes for a smoldering couch to catch fire and when it does ignite the synthetic material burns quickly and produces toxic smoke that can knock you off your feet with just one breath.

The PGFR fire prevention team offers safety education programs in the community for all ages. The Fire Safety for Seniors Program will refresh fire safety knowledge and procedures for seniors, especially those living on their own.