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GBA has compiled a series a best practices for fire prevention and response:

Hot Tips on responding to Fires

Last summer’s tinder-dry conditions in Georgian Bay, along with the Key River fire, have brought fire risk into sharp focus for GBA members. We conducted a survey with member associations to find out what everyone is doing to respond to fires so we can learn from each other. GBA put together a great source article on many aspects of fire safety in the Summer edition of Update. See:UPDATE Summer 2019 article.

Fire Away: Prevention Tips for Outside the Cottage: (Download these tips – 59 KB PDF)

  1. Consider getting a fire pump. Not only can they be indispensable in an emergency, but they are ideal for watering down your property in times of drought – not to mention that they’re great for blasting a deck clean in minutes.
  2. Be aware of the fire rating in your municipality. And always respect fire bans.
  3. Keep BBQs clean and don’t leave them unattended while lit. Be extra careful when using them for the first time at opening.
  4. Keep BBQ lighters and matches out of the reach of children.
  5. Having an outdoor fire? Be aware of the wind. If it’s too gusty, don’t have a fire. When starting a fire, make it on rock or bare soil, well away from roots or flammable debris. Never leave a fire unattended. When leaving, douse the fire with water and stir the ashes to ensure it’s completely out.
  6. If you have a burn barrel, don’t leave it unattended and only use when it’s not windy. Set it up at least 5 metres from grasses and foliage and leave at least a 2-metre area of rock or soil around the barrel. Fully extinguish it when you leave.
  7. Keep firefighting tools (a fire pump, a bucket of water or sand, a garden hose and shovels) on hand when doing any outdoor burning.
  8. Store fuel, firewood and other combustible materials well away from the cottage: at least 10 metres away is recommended.
  9. Create a fire break around your cottage by removing combustible material such as debris and dead vegetation. Replace flammable plants with low-growing and woody or deciduous plants as they are more fire resistant.
  10. FireSmart Canada recommends that a fire break extend at least 10 metres around your cottage, but in some cases it may make sense to manage fuel sources up to 100 metres away. For more details, review the FireSmart guides available at  Home-Owners-FireSmart-Manual-MNR-publication
  11. Keep roof and rain gutters free of dried leaves and pine needles. Install a screened cap on your chimney.
  12. If you allow smoking at the cottage, establish a safe smoking area free of flammable debris and provide a sand or water-filled can for butt disposal. Stress safe disposal of butts to all guests. In 2002 9,414 fires in Canada were caused by smoking. (Counsel of Canadian Fire Marshals and Fire Commissioners: Fire Losses in Canada 2002 Annual Report.
  13.  Use extreme care in setting off fireworks – and never set them off during a fire ban or in an area with lots of brush or flammable debris. Have extinguishers at the ready. Make sure everything is fully extinguished.
  14. Keep highly flammable fibreglass boats and canoes away from the cottage.

Burning Issues: Fire Prevention Tips for Inside the Cottage: (Download these tips – 60 KB PDF)

  1. Cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the province. Don’t leave your stove unattended. Have an extinguisher nearby.
  2. Don’t leave fireplaces and candles unattended. With candles, make sure they are sturdily secured and blown out when you leave.
  3. Check and clean your chimney and fuel-burning appliances before using them. Ensure there are no chimney blockages.
  4. Have your chimney and fireplace cleaned and inspected for creosote build-up, cracks, crumbling bricks or mortar. Burn dry, well-seasoned wood to minimize creosote build-up. Use a screened chimney cap to catch sparks and embers.
  5. Have gas appliances checked by a technician regularly.
  6. Install a propane leak alarm at floor level – no more than 6 inches above the floor. Propane is heavier than air and pools in low lying areas.
  7. Properly dispose of ashes from your wood burning appliances. Place ashes in a covered metal container at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn.
  8. Store all flammable liquids in approved containers OUTSIDE of the cottage. Never store gasoline, propane or other highly flammable liquids inside or adjacent to the cottage. Never store near sources of heat or open flame. Dispose of old cleaning solvents, fuels and paints at a hazardous waste facility.

 Extinguisher Tips

  • Also keep in mind that the dry powder chemical inside the extinguisher tends to pack down in the bottom of the extinguisher over time, which may make it ineffective. Once a month, pick up the fire extinguisher, check the gauge or pin for pressure, turn it upside down and hit the bottom sharply with your hand, then shake it well. This should dislodge any compacted dry chemical inside the extinguisher. Most fire extinguishers have a lifespan of 5 to 15 years.
  • Most residential fire extinguishers discharge in 8-10 seconds with a range of only 2 to 3.5 metres (6 to 10 feet). They should only be used to extinguish small, contained fires or to reduce a fire sufficiently to allow escape.


Preparing for the threat of wildfire is a shared responsibility. From homeowners, to industry, to government, we all have the responsibility to lessen the effects of wildfires. Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) have developed FireSmart, a program about living with and managing for wildfire. FireSmart educates us on preventative measures to reduce the threats of wildfire.  Some helpful information:

  • The Homeowner’s FireSmart Manual,
  • National Fire Protection Association has an informative video with tips on how to protect your property from wildfires and the
  • Municipality of Killarney also has a FireSmart slide show presentation which can be accessed here.


The MNRF, as part of their community outreach, is happy to make presentations to groups like our associations and their neighbours to educate the community about fire. If your group is interested in having them address your AGM or even a stand-alone session, please contact them to arrange a presentation. They can tailor the presentation to meet your time constraints, but we would suggest that allocating an hour or so would be a good place to start given the importance of the subject, the volume of information available, and the likelihood that there will be many questions.


Simon Ethier

Northeast Regional Fire Advisor and FireSmart Advisor




Please note that if you have specific questions it would be helpful to notify Simon in advance. Also note that there is a risk that the presentation may have to be postponed or cancelled if there are active forest fires and therefore more immediate demands for the MNRF personnel.


MNRF Fire Ratings

Useful Fire Rating links:

Ontario Interactive Forest Fire Info Map and other Fire Information

Ontario Outdoor Fire Restrictions Info

Natural Resources Canada Interactive Map


Additional Articles and Submissions

Henvey Inlet 2018 Fire

Please see a letter sent to the Ontario Government by GBA shortly after this fire started: Letter. The day after this letter was sent all construction on the Henvey Inlet windfarm and transmission line project ceased. GBA followed up with an article in our fall UPDATE issue: UPDATE Fall 2018 article.

GBA is discussing issues regarding how the MNRF fire ratings are calculated as we feel that the current system is not producing sufficiently robust fire ratings when conditions are very dry – in fact it is highly erratic and thereby allows inappropriate construction work to be carried out in dangerously dry conditions, which increases fire risk and impinges on public safety. See: UPDATE Fall 2018 article.

This web page is intended for general information purposes only. While we have attempted to provide information that is helpful for our readers, GBA accepts no legal liability for the contents of this web page. Ensure you check original sources of information on fire prevention and response for further details and updates. Check details of the general liability provisions of your insurance coverage if you are involved in providing or supporting firefighting equipment, planning or advice. For advice regarding your insurance needs or liability insurance coverage, please contact your insurance broker.


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