Common fire hazards

Stay safe by learning about these common fire hazards and how to protect yourself and your family.


It's a fact that many fire deaths are caused by people attempting to cook or smoke while under the influence of alcohol.  There's more to responsible drinking than taking a cab.  Don't put yourself or your family at risk to fire.

Follow these safety tips to keep your family safe:

  • Drink responsibly!​​​​​​
  • After a party or gathering where alcohol has been consumed, check furniture to ensure cigarette ashes haven't fallen into the cushions where it can smolder.
  • Avoid smoking when you have been drinking heavily.
  • Avoid cooking when you have been drinking heavily. Ensure the stove is off before going to bed. 
  • Avoid using candles when alcohol will be consumed

Fires can easily start in your kitchen. Follow these tips to keep your kitchen safe:

  • Never leave cooking unattended and never leave home when a microwave oven, stove burner, or oven is on. Keep a close eye on what you're cooking.
  • Keep your cooking area clean. Many items in the kitchen can catch fire easily including pot holders, dish towels, and product packaging. Keep curtains away from the stove and clean up all spills on the stove top or nearby counters.
  • Clean your oven regularly. Many kitchen fires start because of built up grease.
  • Kids and pets should stay clear around your kitchen stove. Keep pets from running around underfoot as they might cause you to trip when you're holding or near to something very hot.
  • Always turn pot handles in! It is too easy for a child to reach up and grab or hit a pot or pan handle that's sticking out over the edge of the stovetop.
  • Watch your sleeves and be mindful of what you're wearing while cooking. Loose sleeves over hot stove burners can catch fire. If you store things above your stovetop, your clothing could catch fire when you lean over stove burners to reach up. Wear clothing with snug cuffs or roll up the sleeves.
  • If a fire starts in your oven or microwave oven, keep the door closed to prevent air from feeding the flames. Turn the appliance off or pull the plug. If the flames don't die out quickly, call Fire Services using 911.
  • Always be alert! Don't cook if you're under the influence of alcohol, or if you're drowsy from medication or fatigue

Cooking with Oil:

If you are using cooking oil, heat it slowly and never leave the pot or pan unattended. Keep a large lid that would fully cover any cooking vessels on the stove close at hand. If the oil or grease should catch fire, the lid can be put over the flames to smother them.  Never try to put out an oil or grease fire with water. It will spatter, possibly spreading the fire. 


In Ontario, candle fires are are the fifth leading cause of preventable fires and London firefighters are responding to an increasing number of blazes caused as a result of candles that are either unsafe or unattended. Candle fires tend to happen in places like bedrooms and bathrooms where people use them as mood enhancers. Unfortunately, people can fall asleep with a candle still burning or leave the room without snuffing out the flame. Candles should never be left burning unattended. Candle use in bedrooms is discouraged as almost half of all candle fires start in the bedroom. If you must use candles in your bedroom, make sure they are not close to flammable articles such as bedding, curtains, blinds, piles of clothing, magazines and books or upholstered furniture. A good rule of thumb to follow is to keep candles at least a meter from anything that can burn. Avoid putting candles anywhere near windows where curtains might be blown into a candle flame.

Many people keep candles on hand for power outages. Flashlights and battery powered lamps are a better idea. Never carry lit candles. It's too easy to drop them.

Using candles safely:

  • Check to make sure that your candle holders are appropriate, they should be sturdy and shouldn't be tipped over easily.
  • They must be made of a material that doesn't burn.
  • They should be big enough to catch any dripping wax.
  • Your candle holders should not be placed amid clutter or near the edge of furniture where children might knock them over.
  • Candle wicks should be clipped to a quarter inch before they are lit
Electrical fires

Unsafe use of electricity can be very dangerous and an electrical fire can happen at any time.

Electrical fire safety:

  • Follow-up when a fuse or circuit breaker blows. Don't just reset the breaker or replace the fuse, find out what caused the problem.
  • Purchase appliances that are approved by the Canadian Standards Association or ULC. Appliances without CSA/ULC approval could be unsafe.
  • Put lamps on level surfaces, away from curtains or other flammable items.
  • Allow adequate ventilation around electronic components that generate heat, such as TV's and audio equipment.
  • Unplug small appliances like toasters and coffeemakers when you're not using them.
  • Use only weatherproof lights and other electrical fixtures outdoors.
  • Be aware that heat generating appliances draw more power than others.
  • Don't overload electrical outlets. This means the notorious "outlet octopus" must be avoided. That's when several electrical cords are plugged into the same outlet. Avoid plugging more than one appliance into an outlet and there should not be more than two operating appliances plugged into the same circuit. Heat generating appliances such as toasters and electric frying pans use a lot of current. If you overload the circuit, it will get hot and possibly short out or catch fire. Have damaged cords or outlets fixed immediately. If water gets into an electrical appliance, have it serviced before you use it again.


  • Replace a fuse with one that has a rating higher than required.
  • Use appliances or lamps with cracked or frayed cords.
  • Run extension cords under carpets or mats.
  • Crimp the cord.
  • Overload an outlet. Prevent the dreaded "Octopus Outlet".
  • Put heat generating appliances closer than 1 metre to anything that can burn.
  • Use light bulbs that exceed a lamp's maximum wattage.
  • Clip off the round grounding prong from an electrical plug.
  • Use an electrical device or appliance after liquid has been spilled on it, before having it checked thoroughly.

Warning signs:

  • Recurring blown fuses or circuit breakers point to a fault in your home's electrical system.  
  • A burning smell or rubbery odor from an appliance.
  • Discoloration of wall outlets.
  • Flickering lights.
Matches and lighters

Matches and lighters can be lethal weapons in the hands of children.  Every year in Ontario, young children are injured or die in fires they start themselves.  In fact, 21% of fire deaths of Ontario children between the ages of 0-14 were caused by children playing with fire.  Young children are naturally curious about fire, so adults must keep all fire-starting materials out of their sight and reach.

  • If you smoke, have only one lighter or matchbook and keep it with you at all times.
  • Teach younger children to take lighters and matches to tell an adult when they find lighters and matches.
  • Be aware of items that appear burnt around the home.
  • Ensure smoke alarms are installed and working on all levels of the home. 
  • Ensure small children are supervised at all times.

Every year fires are caused from careless disposal of smoking materials.

Smoking safely:

  • Encourage smokers to smoke outside.
  • Dispose of cigarettes outside in non-combustible containers.  Do not use flower pots or potting soil.
  • Keep ashtrays or containers away from combustible materials and buildings.
  • Ensure cigarettes are fully extinguished before leaving the room.
  • Empty ashtrays into a can or other metal container, do not dump them directly into the garbage.
  • Ensure all lighters and matches are kept away from small children.
  • Make sure smoke alarms are installed and working throughout the home.
  • Never smoke in bed or mix smoking with medication or alcohol.


Last modified:Wednesday, August 25, 2021