Fire Safety at the Cottage

Edited by Admin
Fire Safety at the Cottage

Fire Safety at the Cottage


As the weather gets warmer, Ontarians’ thoughts turn to cottage country. Whether you own your own place or plan to Airbnb this summer, it’s important to remember that fire safety is important at the cottage, too. We tend to relax once we hit lake country, but before you pull out that lawn chair, make sure that your cottage stay will be a safe one!


Outside the Cottage


When you arrive at the cottage, inspect the outdoor area surrounding the building:


  • Check to make sure that your hydro meter and power poles have not been damaged by animals or weather since you last visited.
  • Clean your chimney. A high percentage of chimney fires are caused by a build-up of creosote.
  • Clean any dried leaves or tree needles from the eavestroughs/rain gutters and roof.

  • Clean up and remove any rubbish, fallen leaves, branches, or dried brush surrounding the cottage. An open area around the cottage helps to provide a firebreak.

  • Ensure that your address number is visible from the road for first responders. Keep your lane navigable for larger vehicles.
  • Make sure any fuel, firewood, or other flammable materials are stored at least 10 metres from the cottage.
  • If smoking is allowed at the cottage, keep it outdoors and create a smoking area with a sand or water-filled receptacle for butts.
  • Campfires are a leading cause of wildfires and may pose a particular danger in dry weather. You must always check with the municipality or with the Ministry of Natural Resources to see if campfires are allowed. If open burning is allowed, fires should be built on bare soil or on exposed rock. Remove leaves and twigs from around the fire to keep it from spreading. Near the campfire area, fill a bucket with sand and one with water, along with a shovel. Set up the garden hose so that it will reach to the area. Make sure that anyone using the fire pit is aware of these tools. Campfires can also be extremely dangerous for small children. If you have a fire burning, ensure that it is supervised at all times.
  • Clean your barbecue before using it, and never leave a lit barbecue unattended. Keep pets and children away from it -- and keep matches and lighters out of sight and reach of children. Dispose of any extinguished coals in a fire-proof container.


Inside the Cottage


One of the first things to do when moving to a new space is to create a plan for emergencies. Make the plan together, so people will understand what to do in case of an emergency. Identify the exits and develop a fire escape plan. Designate family members who are responsible to help people who may have trouble getting out on their own and pets. Keep keys and cellphones in a handy place near an exit. Seconds count during an emergency.


Next, check these items in the cottage:


  • First aid kits. Where are they? Are they fully stocked? A list of necessary items can be found on the Canadian Red Cross website.
  • Emergency supplies. Do you have supplies on hand in case of an emergency? A list of necessary items can also be found on the Canadian Red Cross website.
  • Smoke alarms. Know where they are, how they work, and test them monthly. Ontario’s Fire Code requires that alarms be installed on every story, and outside every sleeping area. Replace batteries regularly and replace the alarms themselves every eight years. If you have a fireplace or furnace that uses fuel you should also have a carbon monoxide detector.
  • Fire extinguishers. You need fire extinguishers in the kitchen, near any fireplaces, in the garage, in the boathouse, and in any powerboats. Teach everyone where they are and how to use them. Make sure that they are maintained according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  • Fireplaces. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, use only dry firewood and never use highly flammable materials such as wrapping paper. Remove ashes in a fireproof metal container. Use a fireplace screen that contains sparks.
  • Candles. Never leave candles burning unattended. Make sure that they are in sturdy candleholders and extinguish them if you leave, even if you are only moving to another room.
  • Know what to do. Since a large percentage of fires happen when cooking, make sure that anyone who will be using the kitchen knows what to do in case of grease fires. Keep a cookie sheet or large pot lid handy to smother grease fires.
  • Emergency numbers. Save local emergency numbers in your phone and post them prominently inside, ie, on the fridge. If there is no wifi coverage in the area, install a landline for use in case of emergency.


One of the major factors that affects safety at the cottage is alcohol. Remember to drink responsibly; too often excessive drinking leads to poor decision-making and creates dangerous situations.


Enjoy your days in the sun – and stay safe!