An East Vancouver neighbourhood is still reeling from a tragic house fire that left a toddler dead and five others hurt.
Vancouver Fire Rescue says the fire appears to have been started by space heaters, and the home was not equipped with smoke alarms.
It’s a horrific accident made all the more scary by the fact all of us are trying to keep warm during this cold snap.
So what can you do to ensure your home is fire safe during the cold winter?
LISTEN: Vancouver Fire Chief John McKearney on fire safety
Vancouver Fire Chief John McKearney says with plunging temperatures, it’s understandable people are trying to find efficient ways to heat their homes.
But he says it’s important to double check you’re working with safe equipment.
“At this time of year, with this type of weather people are turning to their space heaters, and some of them can be quite old and not have the safety features that new modern space heaters have.”
He says it’s also important to ensure space heaters have a good casing, “so that combustibles such as blankets, or paper, or even toys can’t touch the elements.”
McKearney adds good quality heaters should have a safety function that turns them off automatically if they tip over, and that paying for safety is a good investment.
“For the safety of your family and your house they’re relatively inexpensive for getting a good, safe unit,” he says.
“Hopefully what can come out of this tragedy for your listeners, is smoke alarms are fundamentally one of the best tools you can have in your home for the safety of yourself and your family,” McKearney says.
He says having them in your home is actually required by bylaw, but that to ensure safety one should be ideally in every room, or at worst on every floor.
McKearney says once they’re in place you should be testing them monthly, though he adds new models should come with batteries that last up to 10 years.
“There’s no excuse to not have a working smoke alarm in your home,” McKearney says.
He says that’s because the City of Vancouver has a program in place in which anyone can call 3-1-1 and get a free safety inspection of their home, which includes a free smoke alarm if one is needed.
Many other B.C. cities also provide smoke alarms for free. For details, check with your local municipality.