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Outdoor fire safety

BBQs, chimneys, wood burning, campfires, outdoor fireplaces, fireworks safety, propane safety…

Barbeques (BBQ)

Propane fuelled barbeques are regulated by the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA). The TSSA has provided the following requirements in regards to propane barbeques:

  • barbeques are approved for outdoor use only
  • propane cylinders must be safely stored and transported
  • propane cylinders are not to be stored inside any structure
  • always transport and store cylinders in an upright position
  • barbecuing on balconies of apartment buildings or condominium apartments may be prohibited by lease agreements or the Condominium Act (as the owner or agent for the property, building owners, property managers and Condominium Corporations have the legal authority to prohibit barbecuing on the property)
  • propane cylinders are to be transported in a service elevator or, when there are no service elevators, the person must use the passenger elevator alone to transport the cylinder
  • barbeques must be kept clear of all combustible materials as listed on the barbeque rating plate or certified instructions or must be a minimum of one metre (three feet) from combustible materials
  • propane cylinder relief valves must be at least one metre (three feet) horizontally from any building opening below it (including doors and windows); three metres (10 feet) horizontally from the air intake of any appliance or air-moving equipment; and three metres (10 feet) from any source of ignition

Ottawa Fire Services and safety experts with the TSSA recommend the following:

  • carefully inspect your barbeque to ensure that the burner is free of obstructions, rust or debris
  • replace any damaged parts with the appropriate replacement parts
  • test all gas connections for leaks with a 50/50 solution of water and dish soap
  • do not leave the barbeque unattended when in use

Additional information regarding safe barbecuing practices can be found on the TSSA website or by contacting Ottawa Fire Services at 613-580-2860.

Barbeques on balconies

There are no municipal by-laws in Ottawa regarding barbeques on balconies. The Propane Storage and Handling Code (CAN/CSA-B149.2-05) regulates the storage, handling and transfer of propane and the installation of appliances and equipment.

For persons living in apartment buildings and condominium apartments that allow barbeques, Ottawa Fire Services recommends the use of electric barbeques bearing the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) approval. Electric barbeques are a safe alternative to propane and charcoal barbeques.

Barbeques on decks of single or attached homes

Barbecuing on decks of single family and attached dwelling units follow the same restrictions provided above. Barbecuing in attached garages is prohibited because an attached garage with interior access to a home is considered part of the home and barbeques are approved for outdoor use only.

Barbeques and carbon monoxide

Homeowners are further advised to consider the dangers to life safety presented from carbon monoxide (CO). Carbon monoxide is a tasteless, colourless and odourless poisonous gas often referred to as 'the silent killer'. Propane and charcoal fuelled barbeques produce carbon monoxide and, therefore, must be operated outdoors.

Campfires and outdoor fireplaces

It is unsafe to set and maintain open air fires in most urban areas of the City. Population density and average lot size criteria were considered in the determination of the areas in which open air fires are permitted. This restriction applies to both campfires and outdoor fireplaces.

Campfires

An open air fire permit is required in order to light a fire on private property. This includes a camp fire, fire pit, wood burning outdoor fireplace, or agricultural fire. Verify your address online to see if your property is eligible for an open air fire permit.

Outdoor fireplaces

A permit is not required for

  • outdoor natural gas fireplace
  • propane fireplace
  • ethanol fireplace

An outdoor fireplace must:

  • be ULC/CSA approved for use in Canada
  • have a safe clearance from combustibles
  • be refueled safely (follow the manufacturer’s instructions)
  • not be used to burn wood, tree limbs, branches, and/or non-compostable material

General Tips

  • Keep your property clear of excess clutter and debris, including vegetation and materials
  • Properly dispose of items rather than keeping them in your yard (e.g. old tires, left over wood, furniture, and other household items)
  • Consider putting recycling, green and garbage bins out the morning of pick up, not the night before
  • Make sure that bins have lids and are not located under eaves of your home or garage
  • Store items outside in a safe place such as under your deck or in a shed
  • Safely dispose of smoking materials in a deep, sturdy ashtray 

Camping safety

  • Obey all local requirements, laws, and regulations
  • Use tents made of flame-retardant fabric
  • Use a flashlight or electric lanterns in a tent - never candles or matches in or near a tent - use flashlights and electric lanterns
  • Keep heaters away from walls, pillows, camping chairs, and all contents of the tent
  • If open fires are permitted
    • build your fire downwind,
    • build far away from the tent
    • Duse the fire with water to ensure it is out
  • Have a fire extinguisher nearby and know how to use it
  • A portable smoke alarm, secured up high, is also recommended
  • Never leave fuel for propane/gasoline type stoves in the trunk of the car any longer than needed to transport it
  • If driving long distances, stop periodically to open the trunk to ventilate the fumes inside the vehicle
  • Never freshen a fire with a liquid starter; explosions and burns can result
  • Keep liquid fuel away from the tent and children

Chimneys

All chimneys deteriorate through heavy use, neglect, and age. Have chimneys checked annually by a certified, insured chimney sweep to avoid any issues.

Chimney problems can include:

  • cracked or missing bricks
  • blocked flue
  • missing mortar
  • deteriorated crown
  • corroded flashing
  • corroded prefabricated chimneys
  • creosote build-up.

Farm fires

Fires on farms pose a special threat because most farmers are far from fire-fighting equipment and lack the water needed to extinguish fires. The economic and personal losses are much higher than those from fires in urban areas.

Fire emergency procedure

  1. If a fire breaks out in a house or farm building, evacuate from the building immediately
  2. Use emergency exits if normal exits are blocked
  3. If possible, close all doors and windows as you evacuate the building
  4. When everyone is out of the building, call 911
  5. Never allow anyone to re-enter a burning building

Safety rules

  • Never permit smoking in barns or near any flammable materials
  • Never refuel engines inside a building or while the engine is hot or running
  • Avoid spontaneous combustion in hay by ensuring that it is properly dried before putting it in the barn
  • Ensure that all electrical installations and wiring are inspected and approved by the hydro authority
  • Only burn rubbish in an incinerator equipped with a spark arrestor (incinerator should be located 30 metres from any major buildings)
  • Attach lightning rods to all major buildings
  • Equip crop dryers with controls that will automatically shut off blowers or dampers when they get too hot
  • Label and store pesticides in a separate building
  • Never store fuel inside a building
  • Never burn your field

Fireworks safety

Fireworks Safety Tips illustrated poster - Natural Resources Canada

The Ottawa Fire Service recommends attending public fireworks displays presented by professionals and does not recommend family fireworks or informal neighbourhood displays. Please visit the NFPA website for more information.

Note: Fireworks can be discharged on Victoria Day and Canada Day and the day before and after those days.

Important safety tips for informal neighbourhood displays:

  • Appoint a responsible adult who is aware of the hazards and essential safety precautions to be in charge
  • Carefully read and follow the label directions on fireworks packaging
  • Always keep a water hose or pail of water close by when discharging fireworks
  • Discharge fireworks far away from combustible materials like buildings, trees and dry grass
  • Keep onlookers upwind and a safe distance away from the area where fireworks are discharged
  • Light only one firework at a time and only when they are on the ground
  • Never try to light a firework in your hand or re-light dud fireworks
  • For dud fireworks, wait 30 minutes, soak them in a bucket of water and dispose in a metal container
  • Discharge fireworks only if wind conditions do not create a safety hazard
  • Keep sparklers away from children
    • Sparklers burn extremely hot and can ignite clothing, cause blindness, and result in severe burns
    • Soak the sparkler handle in water after burnout to avoid injury
  • After using fireworks, wait 30 minutes, soak them in a bucket of water and dispose in a metal container

Propane safety

Follow these safety tips to keep propane a clean, portable and safe fuel:

When transporting propane cylinders

  • Keep valves closed and insert safety plugs, even when they are empty.
  • Always stand them upright in a well-ventilated area.
  • Always set them down gently.
  • Always secure them when transporting in vehicles. Try storing them in plastic milk crates.
  • Never leave them in a vehicle for extended periods of time.
  • Keep them away from heat or flame.

When using a propane tank

  • Place and secure it on a firm base, away from excessive heat.
  • When connecting your cylinder, note that the cylinder-valve connection has a left-hand thread. This can only be used with appliances approved for propane.
  • After you have connected the cylinder, check for leaks. Use soapy water or a leak detector - never, never use matches or other open flames.
  • Fully open the cylinder valve so that it operates properly.
  • Always use a pressure-reducing regulator.
  • Do not let the propane cylinder get too hot-the pressure will rise.

When you are NOT using your propane cylinder

  • Close the valve tightly, even when the tank is empty. Insert the safety plug.
  • Protect its valve-broken valves can leak.
  • Store the cylinder away from flame and heat.
  • Store your cylinder outdoors in a well-ventilated area when not in use.
  • Place it in a secure, upright position away from open flames or excessive heat.