It’s the time of year when West Shore residents light their wood stoves, turn on heaters, or cozy up to loved ones in order to stay warm.
But the drop in temperatures also brings an increased risk of house fires and the need for residents to check to ensure smoke alarms are in working order.
“Smoke alarms are your first line of defence,” said Lance Caven, assistant chief of fire prevention with Langford Fire Rescue.
“In the winter, we probably have a more significant chance of fires because people are using heating devices, using wood stoves, fire places or gas fire places. They’re also using portable heaters because of the weather.”
According to Caven, residents should have smoke alarms on every level of their home, should test them once a month, and change batteries every six months. As part of the department’s smoke alarm program, they will install a smoke alarm for free or will send someone to check out an alarm that’s of concern.
For those proactively looking to keep their families safe, new technology makes it easier to do so. A number of smoke alarms are wireless now, reducing the need for an electrician to hook it up, and residents can program them to “talk” to each other so if one goes off, they all go off. Some alarms will even say “fire” or tell you what area of your home is affected.
“As technology changes, it makes it easier for people to protect themselves,” Caven said.
A working smoke alarm can mean the difference between life or death in many cases. According to the National Fire Protection Association, three out of five fire deaths took place in homes with no working smoke alarms. In addition, the risk of dying in a house fire is cut in half in a home where there is a working smoke alarm.
Nine people died in house fires across the country in a three-day period last week.
In Nova Scotia, four people, including two children, were killed in a house fire that was initially suspected to have been caused by a wood stove on Jan. 7. In Oshawa, Ont. a house fire on Jan. 8 claimed the lives of two adults and two children and sent three to hospital. Investigators determined there was no working smoke alarm in that home. The following day a teenager died in a house fire near Williams Lake.
On the West Shore, Caven has seen a number of cases where smoke alarms have saved families. On Dec. 29, a fire ripped through a home on High Forest Place in Langford and Caven said the smoke alarms alerted the family to the fire.
A number of years ago, a smoke alarm that was hidden in a kitchen drawer alerted a family to stove-top fire, also in Langford. While it wasn’t a significant event, Caven said the fire could have grown into a much bigger one.
For more information about Langford’s smoke alarm program call 250-478-9555.