Warm up to fire safety: Keeping warm and safe this winter


The cold Alberta winters mean many of us use a number of heat sources to keep our homes comfortable and warm. These include furnaces, portable heaters and wood-burning stoves. While these certainly keep us warm, they also create some fire risks if they aren’t used properly.

Here are some tips that will keep you warm and safe:


  • Replace and clean your furnace filter regularly (three to four times a year).
  • Have your heating system inspected and serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • Ensure that combustible materials such as newspaper, cardboard, paint thinner and paint rags are away from the furnace.


  • Have a service person inspect your chimney, firebox and screen once a year. Have them cleaned when necessary.
  • Avoid using the fireplace as a primary heating source; it may overheat.
  • Make sure that the fire is completely out before going to bed or leaving the home.
  • Open the damper before you start a fire and keep it open until the ashes are cool to the touch. An open damper will draw smoke up the chimney instead of allowing it to enter your home.
  • Use a screen in front of the fireplace to prevent embers and sparks from escaping and igniting carpets or other combustible materials.

Wood-burning stoves

  • Use clean, well-seasoned wood that has been split and dried properly.
  • Regularly remove ashes and store them in a covered metal container a safe distance from the house. Only dispose of ashes after they are completely cool.
  • Burn wood only and not wrapping paper or garbage in your wood-burning stove.

    Portable electric heaters

  • When purchasing a space heater, be sure to choose one that automatically shuts off if the heater falls over.
  • Space heaters need space. Keep heaters at least one metre (three feet) away from your bed, curtains and other combustible materials.
  • Avoid using an electrical heating device on the same circuit with another high wattage appliance, such as a microwave or toaster oven.
  • Regularly inspect the wall outlet and heater plug and cord for excessive heat.
  • Heaters should be placed on a flat and level surface so that they do not tip over.
  • Check electrical heating equipment regularly and replace loose, frayed or damaged cords.

For more information on fire safety in Alberta, contact your municipality’s fire or emergency service or the Office of the Fire Commissioner at 1-800-421-6929, email firecomm@gov.ab.ca or visit http://www.ofc.alberta.ca and select Public Education tab.