With the relaxing of COVID-19 restrictions, the desire of Prince Rupert residents to light the barbecue or roast marshmallows over open fire pits, increases as summer quickly approaches. Practicing fire and barbecue safety is of utmost importance, Prince Rupert Fire and Rescue said on May 24.
There are some simple reminders for local residents to reduce the risk of injury and to keep families safe while enjoying a summer fire or BBQ.
Chad Cooper, assistant deputy fire chief of the Prince Rupert Fire Rescue reminds residents there is a provincial ban for any back yard burns at this present time. Even with the ban, families can still enjoy outdoor cooking over a pit fire or with a bbq.
“So anything like burning scrap, scrap wood, anything industrial is not allowed. The only thing allowed in the province right now is a small camp or cooking fire,” Cooper said.
Fires are not permitted to be any larger than one metre by one metre, Cooper said and it is mandatory to use only clean dry burning wood.
Cooper’s advise has been heard time and time again but needs to be repeated.
“You want to make sure that you never leave it (a fire) unattended,” he said of open cooking fires, “And you want to make sure that any small children stay at least three metres away from the fire and are supervised by an adult at all times.”
A bucket of water should be kept near by, in case the fire enlarges more than permitted. The water is also handy when the fire needs to be finished and completely extinguished. Cooper said it is vital to make sure any smouldering ashes in the fire pit have been extinguished because the wind can catch embers and blow them to other areas re-igniting them thus creating grass fires that spread.
“We’ve been pretty lucky here, just because it’s so green and wet here. But, I know outside our region, it’s quite a concern that fires can get away.”
Open fire pits are not the only thing that require safety and the need for attention. BBQ’s, whether they are gas or coal require the same attention and a little bit more.
It’s important for house safety that the BBQ grill is kept away from any structures, trees, or anything that can catch fire. This is to ensure the radiant heat does not start the plastic siding on fire, or if the BBQ catches on fire it will lessen exposure to the house. It is important to keep the separation, Cooper said.
“With the barbecue… make sure you don’t grill close to the house and close to your deck railings – whether it be wood or plastic,” Cooper said, “And you don’t want to grill directly underneath the soffit of the house.”
Check all hoses on a gas bbq for any leaks and never ignite the grill with the lid closed, Cooper said. Always light one burner at a time. If you are using a coal BBQ dispose of coal ash safely when you are finished.
“When you’re finished grilling, make sure coal is completely cool, and then dispose (the ash) in a metal container. It must be metal,” Cooper said, because embers can be hidden and plastic will melt.
With hundreds of apartments in Prince Rupert, many with overhanging balconies, gas BBQ’s are preferential over coal. Keeping the grill cleaned so grease doesn’t build up and ignite is a critical step in safe outdoor cooking. If the BBQ does become on fire limiting the oxygen will help.
“If you can safely close the lid and limit the oxygen, then do it. If you cannot do it safely, then just deploy your fire extinguisher,” Cooper said.
A minimum of a five pound ABC fire extinguisher should be in all home kitchens and BBQ areas, Acting Captain James Daniele, of PRFR said.
An ‘ABC’ fire extinguisher is a dry chemical extinguisher which can be used for various classes of fires, he said and it is a good multipurpose fire extinguisher for most homes.
“The purpose of the ABC is the type of fire it will address,” Daniele said, “Class A will be woods and paper, Class B is flammable liquids such as gasoline, and Class C is electrical Fire. It encompasses most of them.”
Some quick tips for maintaining fire extinguishers should be to check on a regular basis for proper pressure with the gauge needle in the green for correct indication. Check the safety pin is secured and in place, as well, expiration dates on the bottom of the fire extinguisher should be checked at least once a year, Daniele said.
When ever using a fire extinguisher, always stand about eight feet back as the force of the extinguisher sprays quite a distance which can cause splash back into your eyes, Daniele said. ABC extinguishers can be quite messy to use so he recommends certain strategy for best efficient usage.
“Start at the base (of the fire), start closest to you, sweep back and forth, and push the fire away from you,” Daniele said.
To stay fire safe during the summer, Cooper recommends tuning to social media and BC Wildfire for any provincial bans because if it gets too hot camp fires can be banned completely.
“If you’re travelling through other regions in the province, it’s a good idea to check online, see if they have any burning restrictions, because municipalities and regions can throw in their own more strict bans, ” Cooper said.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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