Fire Safety & Prevention

Fire is hot, fast, and deadly. Prevention and being prepared are the best defences against a fire in your home. Reduce your family's risk of fire-related injury or death by following these safety tips.

Indoor Fire Safety

Candles, Lighters & Matches

Candle fires are very common, and easily preventable.

  • Never burn a candle on or near anything that might catch fire - and don't use candleholders that can catch fire.
  • Blow out all candles before you leave a room or go to bed.
  • Never leave children or pets alone with candles.
  • Use candleholders that are sturdy and not easy to tip over.
  • During a power outage, don't use candles. Plan ahead and get battery-operated lights or rechargeable lanterns which provide more light, more safely.

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Lighters and Matches

Children are at high risk for burn injuries as they experiment with matches and fire. Children have a natural curiosity about fire - it has a magical appeal, which captures their attention. Also, they see adults start the barbecue or light a cigarette and since they mimic adults in many ways, they want to mimic fire starting behavior as well.

Keep children safe by teaching them safety basics:

  • Young children should not handle matches and lighters. They should be taught to "tell an adult" when they find matches or lighters, and leave matches and lighters where they find them.
  • Teach children that matches and lighters are tools, not toys, which can be used the right way or a wrong way. Using a match to light a barbecue, start a fire in the fireplace, or ignite the pilot light on the water heater, are the right ways to use a match.
  • Always store your matches and lighters in a safe place that can't be accessed by children.

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Two-thirds of home cooking fires start with the burning of food or other cooking materials. Unattended cooking, and frying are two of the biggest causes of cooking fires.

Keep you and your family safe by using these tips.

  • Stay in the kitchen when you're cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stovetop.
  • Keep things that can catch fire – oven mitts, paper towels, wooden spoons, paper or plastic bags, curtains – away from your stovetop.
  • Wear short, close-fitting, or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking. Loose clothing can dangle onto stove burners and catch fire if it comes in contact with a gas flame or electric burner.
  • Have a “kid-free zone” of at least 3 feet around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried.
  • If you're cooking with oil, keep an eye on what you fry. Smoke is a danger sign that the oil is too hot. If you see wisps of smoke or the oil smells, immediately turn off the burner and/or carefully remove the pan from the burner. 
  • If you have a stove fire, when in doubt, just get out and call the fire department.
  • Keep an oven mitt and lid nearby when you’re cooking. If a small grease fire starts in a pan:
    • Smother the flames by sliding the lid over the pan
    • Turn off the burner
    • Don't move the pan
    • Leave the lid on until the pan is completely cool to keep the fire from restarting
  • In case of an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed to prevent flames from burning you or your clothing. After a fire, the oven should be checked and/or serviced before being used again.

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infographic - fire prevention when cooking

Fire Extinguishers

A fire extinguisher can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or containing it until the fire department arrives. However, fire extinguishers are just one element of a fire response plan, and the #1 priority for residents is to get out safely.

  • For the home, select a multi-purpose extinguisher (i.e., can be used on all types of fires) that's large enough to put out a small fire, but still easy to handle.
  • Fire extinguishers should be installed in plain view above the reach of children, near an escape route, and away from stoves and heating appliances.
  • Use a portable fire extinguisher when a fire is confined to a small area (e.g. wastebasket) and isn't growing, everyone has exited the building, the fire department has been called or is being called, and the room isn't filled with smoke.
  • To operate a fire extinguisher, remember the word PASS:
    • Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you, and release the locking mechanism.
    • Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
    • Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
    • Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.
  • The City Fire Department offers fire extinguisher training to groups.

  Installation, Maintenance and Recycling

  • Extinguishers require routine care. Read your operator's manual to learn how to inspect your extinguisher and follow the manufacturer's instructions on maintenance.
  • Rechargeable models must be serviced after every use. 
  • Disposable fire extinguishers can be used only once and must be replaced after use.
  • Recycle your old or spent extinguisher. City residents may drop off up to two fire extinguishers per year to the City Fire Hall, 165 13th St East. If you're not a City resident you can recycle them at your local fire extinguisher supply / service provider.

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Fireplace Safety

   Residential indoor wood burning is regulated by Metro Vancouver. All indoor wood-burning stoves/fireplaces/appliances must be registered, and burning is prohibited from May 15 to September 15 (unless the wood-burning appliance is the sole source of heat). Learn more on the Metro Vancouver website.

On cold winter nights, there’s nothing better than curling up in front of a wood-burning fireplace or stove. But if your fireplace or stove isn’t properly installed or regularly maintained, it can quickly turn dangerous, destructive and deadly.

Always follow these basic safety tips:

  • Before lighting, open the damper and keep it open until the fire is out and the ashes are cool enough to touch.
  • Build your fire with a small amount of dry, seasoned wood to keep the flames under control.
  • Always use a screen in front of the fireplace, and never leave children or pets unattended.
  • Never leave your house or go to bed when a fire is still burning.
  • Have your fireplace or stove cleaned and inspected once a year by a professional.

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High-Rises & Apartment Buildings

High-rise fires can result from the same causes as fires in other homes, but they may present special fire safety concerns. It's important to have a home escape plan and be aware of all fire safety recommendations in your building.

Prepare for a Fire or Fire Alarm

  • Learn your building's evacuation plans. Make sure everyone in your household knows where to go if the fire alarm sounds, and practice your escape plan together.
  • Participate in fire drills, which should be included in your building's Fire Safety Plan.
  • Learn the sound of your building's fire alarm.
  • Know at least two escape routes (including windows) from every room in your apartment or condominium.
  • In the event of a fire, you may have to escape in the dark by feeling your way along the wall. Be prepared. Count the number of doors between your living unit and the two nearest building exits.
  • Know where to find your building's fire alarms and learn how to use them.
  • Know the locations of all available exit stairs from your floor in case the nearest one is blocked by fire or smoke.
  • If you need help to exit your home in an emergency due to a medical condition or disability, we recommend that you complete a Medical Information Form annually and submit to or the mailing address, so the Fire Department has a record. If you live in a multi-unit building, ask your strata if they also keep records of those needing assistance.

During a Fire or Fire Alarm

  • If you spot a fire, pull the fire alarm on your way out to notify the fire department and your neighbors, and call 911.
  • If the fire alarm sounds, feel the door before opening, and close all doors behind you as you leave. If it's cool, leave by the nearest way out. If it's hot, use another way out or shelter in place. 
  • If you can hear instructions over your building's public address system, listen carefully and do as you're told. You might be told to stay where you are.
  • Don't use the elevator unless directed by the fire department.
  • Leave the fire area quickly, closing all doors behind you to slow the spread of fire and smoke.
  • Use the stairs to get out of the building, never the elevator. It may stop at a floor where the fire is burning, or malfunction and trap you. Go directly to a stairwell that's free of smoke and flames.
  • Once you're out, stay out – and keep out of the way of firefighters. Tell the fire department if you know of anyone trapped in the building. Don't go back inside for any reason, until firefighters tell you it is safe to do so.

During a Fire or Fire Alarm - If You Can't Evacuate

  • If you can't leave your apartment, stay calm and be patient. Rescuing all the occupants of a high-rise building can take time.
  • Close the door between you and the fire. Stuff the cracks around the door with towels, rags, or bedding, and cover vents to keep the smoke out of the room.
  • If there's a phone in the room where you're trapped, call the fire department and tell them exactly where you are. Do this even if you can see fire trucks on the street below.
  • If possible, go to a room with an outside window and a telephone. Wait at the window and signal for help by waving a sheet or other light-colored cloth. Open the window at the top and bottom if you can (don't break it), but be ready to close the window quickly if smoke rushes in.

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Lithium Ion Batteries

Lithium cells provide sustained power and often have the capability to recharge. These batteries store a large amount of energy in a small amount of space. When designed, manufactured, and used properly, lithium batteries are a safe, high energy density power source for devices.

Lithium ion batteries supply power to devices such as:

  • smart phones
  • laptops
  • e-scooters and e-bikes
  • power tools
  • e-cigarettes
  • body cameras
  • smoke alarms
  • toys
  • smart luggage
  • vehicles

Lithium batteries are normally safe, but they may cause injury if they have design defects or are made of low quality materials, are damaged or assembled incorrectly, are used or recharged improperly, or are on overloaded electrical circuits. Damaged or defective batteries can overheat, catch fire, or explode. Lithium-ion battery fires give off toxic gases and they burn extremely hot.

Safety Tips

  • Only purchase and use devices, batteries, and charging equipment that are listed by a nationally recognized testing lab and labeled accordingly.
  • Only use the battery, charger, and charging cord that were designed for, and came with, the device, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Don’t keep charging the device or device battery after it’s fully charged.
  • Put batteries in the device the right way.
  • Don’t charge a device under your pillow, on your bed, or on a couch.
  • Keep batteries at room temperature when possible. Don’t place batteries in direct sunlight or inside hot vehicles.
  • Don’t charge batteries at temperatures below 0°C (32°F) or above 40°C (105°F).
  • Only charge one device or device battery at a time to prevent overloading the circuit.
  • Store batteries and devices away from exit doors and anything that can get hot or catch fire.
  • Keep batteries away from children and liquids.
  • Only have device repairs performed by a qualified professional.
  • Stop using the battery if you notice an unusual odor, change in color, too much heat, change in shape, leaking, smoking, or not keeping a charge.

Getting Rid of Batteries

Batteries don't belong in the garbage. Visit the Recycling Council of British Columbia's webpage to look up where to recycle your batteries.


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Plan & Prepare

Fire can spread rapidly through your home, leaving you as little as one or two minutes to escape safely once the smoke alarm sounds. Plan and practice so you and your family are ready to take action quickly.

Create Your Plan

  • Walk through your home and and look for all possible exits and escape routes, including windows and doors.
  • Households with children should consider drawing a floor plan of the home, marking two ways out of each room.
  • Make arrangements in your plan for anyone in your home who has a disability.
  • Choose an outside meeting place (e.g. neighbor's house, streetlight, mailbox, etc.) a safe distance in front of your home where everyone can meet after they've escaped. Mark the location of the meeting place on your escape plan.
  • If you need help to exit your home in an emergency due to a medical condition or disability, we recommend that you complete a Medical Information Form annually and submit to or the mailing address, so the Fire Department has a record. If you live in a multi-unit building, ask your strata if they also keep records of those needing assistance.

Practice Your Plan

  • Practice your home fire escape plan twice a year, making the drill as realistic as possible.
  • During the drill check whether children and others will actually wake up to the sound of the smoke alarm. If they don't, assign someone to wake them up as part of the drill and in a real emergency.
  • If your home is higher than ground level, every family member (including children) must be able to escape from the second floor rooms. Escape ladders can be placed in or near windows to provide an additional escape route. Review the manufacturer's instructions carefully, and practice setting up.
  • Always choose the escape route that's safest – the one with the least amount of smoke and heat – but be prepared to escape under toxic smoke if necessary. When you do your fire drill, everyone in the family should practice getting low and going under the smoke to your exit.
  • A closed door may slow the spread of smoke, heat, and fire. Keep bedroom doors closed while people sleep, and close doors behind you if you have to leave for a fire emergency.

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Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home. Test them once a month, and replace the batteries at daylight savings time in March and November. Make sure everyone knows the sound of the alarms, and what to do if they hear them.

Smoke Alarms

The majority of fatal home fires happen at night when people are asleep, as the smell of smoke may not wake a sleeping person. Inexpensive household smoke alarms sound an alarm, alerting you to a fire and giving precious seconds to escape.

  • Choose smoke alarms that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Install smoke alarms inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home, including the basement.
  • On floors without bedrooms, alarms should be installed in or near living areas such as dens, living rooms, or family rooms.
  • Mount smoke alarms high on walls or ceilings (remember, smoke rises). Wall-mounted alarms should be installed not more than 12 inches away from the ceiling (to the top of the alarm).
  • Smoke alarms installed in the basement should be installed on the ceiling at the bottom of the stairs leading to the next level.
  • Smoke alarms should be installed at least 10 feet (3 meters) from a cooking appliance to minimize false alarms when cooking.
  • Test your smoke alarm regularly, keep it clean (using compressed air or a vaccuum), and change the batteries twice a year.
  • Smoke alarms have a lifespan of about 10 years, after which they should be replaced and recycled (in small appliance recycling).

The North Vancouver City Fire Department offers a smoke alarm installation and battery changing program for seniors and people with disabilities. On request, the fire department will provide and install smoke alarms and batteries, free of charge, to those who are unable to perform this essential task themselves. City residents who require this service or would like more information should phone 604-980-5021 or email

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Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Carbon monoxide (CO) is the leading cause of fatal poisonings in North America. Exposure to high concentrations can cause death in just a few minutes. Carbon monoxide (CO) is often called the silent killer, as it's an invisible, odourless, colorless gas created when fuels (e.g. gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane) burn incompletely.

Excess carbon monoxide can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms include: 

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

To keep you and your family safe and avoid CO poisoning:

  • Install a certified carbon monoxide alarm in your home and check it regularly to make sure the battery is working.
  • Eliminate CO at the source. Make the maintenance of your furnace, fireplace, and all fuel-burning appliances a priority, and have them checked and cleaned each year.
  • Know the symptoms of CO poisoning. If they appear, get everyone, including pets, outside to fresh air immediately.
  • Never heat your home with a gas stove.
  • Never use a barbeque, charcoal, or hibachi grill in the home or an enclosed area.
  • During and after a snowstorm, check that vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow.

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Sprinkler Systems

Automatic sprinklers are highly effective and reliable parts of fire protection in buildings. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimates that the chance of surviving a fire increases by one to two thirds in public buildings and private homes equipped with sprinkler systems. Because sprinkler systems act so early in the course of a fire, they reduce both the heat and flames and the amount of smoke produced in a fire.

Automatic sprinkler systems supply water to a network of individual sprinklers, each protecting an area below them. Sprinklers open automatically in response to heat, and spray water on a fire to put it out or keep it from spreading. Only sprinklers near the fire are triggered by heat, and spray water.

Fire sprinklers have been around for more than a century, protecting commercial and industrial properties. Many people don't realize that the same life-saving technology is also available for homes, where roughly 80 percent of all civilian fire deaths occur. Consider this life-saving upgrade to your home. Note that commercial or residential automatic sprinkler systems should be installed by a qualified contractor who adheres to NFPA codes and standards and/or with local fire safety regulations.

If you have a sprinkler system in place, keep in mind the following:

  • Never paint or hang anything from your sprinklers.
  • Dirty sprinklers? Sprinklers have a fragile narrow glass tube which will trigger if broken, so touching sprinklers in any way isn't recommended. The safest way to clean is to spray with a can of compressed air, as you'd use to clean a computer keyboard.

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After A Fire

Sometimes, despite our best prevention efforts, fires can occur. Recovering from a fire can be a physically and mentally draining process.

These steps can assist with the recovery process after a fire incident:

  • If you're renting or leasing the property, contact the owner immediately
  • Contact your insurance company, family members, and doctor, children's school or daycare (if applicable)
  • Emergency Social Services in your area (or the Canadian Red Cross) can help you with immediate needs such as temporary housing, food, medicine, eyeglasses, clothing, etc.
  • Keep all receipts incurred after the fire
  • Do not remove items from your home until you've spoken to the Fire Department

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Outdoor Fire Safety


Did you know that July is the peak month for grill fires, and that roughly half of injuries involving grills are thermal burns? 

Barbeque safely by learning the basics of grilling safety:

  • Propane and charcoal barbecue grills should only be used outdoors, and filled propane tanks should never be stored indoors.
  • For a gas grill, open the lid before turning on the grill, turn on the propane, then turn on the knob(s) and push the ignition button.
  • Clean your grill and the tray below to avoid flare-ups and fire.
  • Keep children and pets at least three feet away from a hot barbeque.
  • Place your barbecue in a well-ventilated location, away from your home's siding, balcony, fence and surrounding vegetation. Note: most propane barbecues have a label on the back indicating the minimum clearance distance required for safe operation.
  • When you've finishing grilling, always turn off the propane at the tank or let the coals cool completely before disposing.

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The City bans the sale, purchase, possession, or discharge of fireworks of any kind unless it's a public display by someone who has been certified as a Fireworks Supervisor, with a permit issued by the Fire Chief. See Fireworks Regulation Bylaw 7677 for details. Anyone in violation of the ban could face a fine up to $500, or up to $10,000 if convicted.

Each year, fireworks cause many injuries and fires. Learn more about fireworks safety in this infographic from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

infographic fireworks safety

Outdoor Burning Restrictions

Open Air Fires in the City are regulated by Bylaw 8852. This includes burning for land clearing, pizza ovens, fire bowls and other types of outdoor burning 

Fires permitted at residential properties:

  • burner (natural gas or propane)
  • patio heater (natural gas or propane)
  • gas barbecue
  • charcoal barbecue
  • outdoor gas fire bowl

Fires prohibited within the City (minimum $450 fine):

  • yard/beach/park fire
  • fire pit
  • chiminea
  • cooking fires
  • outdoor fireplace*
  • outdoor pizza oven*

*unless by permit

Prohibited within City parks and trails (minimum $500 fine):

  • smoking
  • open fire
  • charcoal barbecue

For more information, please refer to the Outdoor Burning Regulations pamphlet.

Metro Vancouver's Air Quality Management Bylaw may also impact allowed usage - learn more on the Metro Vancouver website.

Underground Oil Tanks

   Effective October 1, 2018, the City of North Vancouver is no longer involved in the regulation of oil tanks. Individuals and developers will need to manage their own liability and exposure by following the BC provincial regulations.

Years ago, homes were often heated with heating oil, and many City homes built between the 1920s and the 1960s had fuel storage tanks buried close to their foundations. Fuel tanks are no longer in use, but homeowners may not know that a tank is on their property. Check for signs of a fuel tank:

  • A filler pipe protruding from the ground
  • A vent pipe at the side of your house
  • A metal pipe cap close to your front or backyard
  • A sunken area on your lawn

If you have one it is important that you have it removed, as underground fuel tanks present significant potential for environmental contamination. If a tank on your property leaks oil, you could be liable for damages. A fuel tank on your property can also complicate real estate transactions and may restrict your insurance coverage.

Steps to Ensure Your Property Has No Underground Fuel Tank

  • Have your property surveyed by an environmental consultant (search online for a fuel tank environmental consultant in BC). You can also check with the City of North Vancouver Fire Department to see if there are any reports registered to your property relating to fuel tanks by emailing or calling 604-980-5021 (note: Reports have only been maintained to September 30, 2018).

  • If a fuel tank is located, you'll need to hire a qualified environmental consultant or engineer to work alongside the professional oil tank contractor. Once the tank has been removed, the environmental consultant will take soil samples to ensure it's not contaminated.
  • If necessary, report leaks and spills. Provincial law requires that you, your contractor, and/or the professional engineer report certain petroleum releases, or threats of release, to the local fire department (City of North Vancouver) and the BC Ministry of Environment (depending on the nature and volume of the release, as well as contamination levels).
  • Retain copies of all records as you may be asked to produce them later if you sell your property, obtain financing, renew your home insurance, or file a claim.


Did you know that in BC more than 40% of wildfires are started by humans (source: Province of BC)? These fires are 100% preventable. 

Wildfires often start small and initially go unnoticed, but have the capacity to spread very quickly. Take basic safety precautions:

  • If you smoke, don't toss your butts. Place in a proper ashtray or receptacle.
  • Never leave a campfire unattended – drown it completely before you leave.
  • When the Fire Danger Rating is High or Extreme, something as simple as a spark from a vehicle can start a wildfire. Learn how to avoid vehicle sparks
  • Reduce the risk of wildfires spreading to your property by being FireSmart

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