Fire Prevention Week might be over, but the focus on fire safety and prevention should continue all year round. Fires can have life-altering consequences, especially when your personal property is involved. Accidents at your cottage can occur anytime during the year, especially in the winter after you’ve closed your cottage. Being away from the cottage for the season means that you have to think ahead when closing the cottage, taking the proper precautions to avoid the very real threat of fire.
Take a walk around your property
Before leaving your cottage for the season, take a walk around your property and perform an inspection. You should be paying particular attention to any power lines surrounding your home. If these lines look like they’re being threatened by growing tree branches, you’ll want to have them professionally cut or trimmed before you leave. If you don’t own the utility poles on your property, you’ll have to contact your hydro provider to trim branches for you. While you’re considering branches that are at risk of interfering with power lines, remember that they’ll be weighed down by accumulating snowfall and may pose more of a problem than they might currently appear to.
Turn everything off and clean up the cottage
The biggest cause of winter cottage fires is baseboard electric heaters that have been left on over the season. It’s important to turn your baseboard heaters off before leaving for the season to eliminate the threat of fire. If your cottage is heated using central heating or any other type of heating, remember to turn your system down to the lowest setting, or turn it off completely. Take a walk around the interior of your cottage and unplug any appliances that don’t need to be on over the winter.
If you plan on keeping the heat running at a low temperature or appliances plugged in, be sure to clear away any flammable material that may pose a hazard. Fire hazards might include papers, rags, clothing, fuel, firewood, combustibles, and anything else that could catch fire while you’re away. It’s also wise to clean your fireplace, chimney or wood stove if applicable, as it’ll save you time in the spring and reduce the chances of a fire breaking out after you reopen the cottage.
Consider a remote alarm system and proactive road maintenance
For Muskoka cottage owners who are still worried about the possibility of fire over the winter season, a number of alarm systems offer remote fire monitoring that can detect the outbreak of fires and alarm the nearest fire department. Taking proactive measures like this can greatly minimize damage to your property in the event of a fire. It’s also a good idea to consider what might happen if the road to your cottage isn’t taken care of over the season. Snow blockage can slow the approach of the fire department and other first responders to your cottage. In some cases, cottage country fire departments lack the equipment entirely to get into an unplowed road. If your road isn’t currently plowed during the winter season, it might be worth looking into regular road maintenance after storms and major snowfalls to ensure accessibility.
No matter what precautions you’ve taken before leaving your cottage for the winter, it’s recommended that you take photos of everything in and around the property. Doing this will make insurance claims far easier in the event of a fire, theft, or damage to the cottage.