We’re only a few days into 2018, but there have already been a large number of fatal house fires in the GTA and across Ontario.
“It’s an alarming and tragic trend,” says Dr. Marc Jeschke, Director, Ross Tilley Burn Centre at Sunnybrook.
While there doesn’t appear to be any one cause for the sudden increase in fires, there are steps that everyone can take to keep themselves and their families safe from fires and burn injuries this winter. Here are five tips from Dr. Jeschke:
1) Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
Fires spread incredibly quickly, as this video shows. You only have only a minute or two to get of a burning building, so it’s essential to be alerted to a fire as quickly as possible.
“Having a working smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector in your home can mean the difference between life and death,” says Dr. Jeschke.
Test your equipment regularly, and replace the batteries when necessary. Don’t forget that smoke detectors have an expiry date listed on the back – they need to be replaced every ten years.
2) Don’t use dangerous equipment, like blowtorches, inside
The weather this winter has been downright frigid, which can cause frozen pipes, furnace breakdowns and other issues around the house. Dr. Jeschke’s advice? Call in the experts.
“You should not be doing things like taking a blowtorch to a frozen pipe. You don’t know for sure whether there’s water in that pipe, or if it’s actually a fuel line that could heat up and explode,” he says.
Running generators inside is also a big no-no. You can’t see, taste or smell carbon monoxide, which is why you should be checking your carbon monoxide detector to make sure it’s working.
3) Take down your Christmas tree
Live trees can dry out over time and become very flammable.
“Get your Christmas tree out of the house before it becomes a fire hazard,” says Dr. Jeschke.
4) Layer up – frostbite is a burn, too
If you know you’ll be outside for an extended period of time, dress for the weather. The feeling of pins and needles, lack of feeling in a certain area, or skin that is hard and pale may mean you’ve developed frostbite.
“Frostbite is no joke. The effect it has on the skin is similar to a burn, so people with severe frostbite are treated here in the burn centre. If your skin turns black and then blisters, you’re in trouble. Get medical attention immediately,” says Dr. Jeschke.
Take extra care when fuelling up your car in the winter, and wear gloves when doing so. “Getting gasoline on your hands when it’s very cold out will cause your skin to freeze within seconds,” he says.
5) Use common sense
Dr. Jeschke says many of the injuries they see in the burn centre are the result of poor judgment. Simple activities like smoking and cooking can become deadly if a person falls asleep. Dropping a lit cigarette onto the carpet or leaving a stove unattended can ignite a fire very quickly.
“Maybe someone’s decision-making ability was impaired by drugs or alcohol, or they didn’t stop to think about the potentially dangerous consequences of a situation,” he says. “Don’t be that person.”