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Avoiding Cottage (and other) Fires - Tips from the Insurance Bureau of Canada

Guthrie Insurance

It's important to create a firebreak around your cottage – an area that won't fuel a fire. Your basic protection is to keep the grass cut and raked. But there is much more you can do to create primary and secondary firebreaks.

A primary break is a clearing of all ground within five metres of your buildings. Space trees so the tops are at least five metres apart. Saw off branches less than three metres above ground level. Prune branches so they're at least three metres away from a chimney or stovepipe. Remove flammable ground litter such as dead grass, dead trees, branches and household debris.

A secondary firebreak extends at least 15 metres from your buildings. Remove shrubs, small trees, and dead ground litter. Keep the tops of mature trees more than five metres apart to lower the chance of a ground fire spreading up them. Extend the firebreak area to 25 metres downhill from any buildings on a sloping site, as fire will travel uphill if possible.

To protect your cottage, consider a few other fire safety tips. For the structure itself, select fire-resistant materials. Metal roofing and aluminum siding may not look as nice as logs and wooden shingles, but they're safer. If you must use wood, treat it with a fire-retardant every few years.

Dry grass and debris collect under open porches, decks and floors, so close them in. This will keep sparks from blowing in and setting fire to dry floor joists or rafters.

Be sure to maintain the fuse boxes, heaters, wiring, stoves, and other possible heat sources. Store any cleaning fluids and other flammable materials in approved containers. And stack any firewood or lumber well away from the building.

Keep fibreglass boats and canoes away from buildings, because they're highly flammable. Store them upside down, one metre above ground level, on a clearing or a rock. If you're storing a powerboat nearby, remove any gasoline.

Finally, keep the phone number for reporting a forest fire near your phone. If you notice a fire, your quick attention is essential for protecting the forest and everyone in the area.

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