Planning for and dealing with House Fires

One of the most common emergencies that Canadians experience is a fire in their home. In Canada, house fires are most likely to occur between December and March. The most common causes for fires at home are cooking (leaving the stove unattended), improperly extinguished cigarettes and candles left unattended.

What you should do:


The best way to protect yourself and your family in case of a house fire is to follow these three steps:

  1. Know your risks: Find out the most common causes of house fires.
  2. Make a plan: Work with your family to make a plan so that when a house fire happens, you are ready.
  3. Get a kit: You can buy a preparedness kit from the Red Cross, or make your own.
  • Keep items that can catch on fire at least three feet away from heat sources i.e. space heaters.
  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Never leave candles unattended and use deep, wide containers to hold them.
  • Stay in the kitchen when using the stove top. If you have to leave the room, turn off the stove.
  • Keep anything that can catch on fire – i.e. clothes, towels, plastic, and oven mitts- away from the stove.
  • Talk to children about the dangers of fire and keep lighters and matches out of reach.
  • Most house fires happen during the holiday period and the winter months. Christmas trees can get very dry when inside and can catch fire very easily. Make sure you water the tree regularly and use approved lights.
  • Create a fire plan with your family and practice it twice a year. Your plan should include:
    • A floor plan of your home with all possible emergency exits;
    • Who will assist family members needing assistance i.e. elderly, disabled, small children;
    • A place outside for your family to meet.
  • Learn fire safety techniques and teach them to your family regularly. Make sure everyone is familiar with the technique “STOP, DROP, AND ROLL” in case clothing catches on fire.
  • Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home. Test them every month and replace the batteries at daylight savings time each year (March and November).
  • Show children the alarms and tell them what to do if the alarms sound.


  • Follow your escape plan. Get out and stay out.
  • Call for help at a neighbours’ house.
  • If closed doors or handles are warm, use an alternate exit.
  • Crawl under low smoke.
  • If smoke, heat or flames block your exit, stay in the room with the doors closed. Place a wet towel under the door and call 9-1-1. Open a window and wave a brightly coloured cloth or use a flashlight to signal for help.
  • Check on vulnerable family members, friends and neighbours (the elderly, ill, disabled) who may require special assistance.