With summer upon Rocky View County (RVC), many residents may be spending more time around their outdoor fire pits.
While this can be an enjoyable pastime, Fire Chief Randy Smith said the ramifications of not exercising proper fire safety can be extreme.
“You can lose your home, your loved ones and it can impact your neighbours,” Smith said. “Just a moment of inattention can have a huge impact.”
For that reason, it's important to practice fire safety. To prevent an unsafe fire pit, Smith said fires should be monitored constantly.
“People get tired and they leave the fire unattended. If you’re going to leave, make sure you put the fire out,” he said. “Have a hose or a bucket so you can extinguish the fire.”
Smith said being cognizant of personal safety, as well as the safety of friends and family, is also important.
“Everybody wants to have a stick and poke the fire, but just be very careful, especially kids,” he said. “You don’t want them falling into the fire. Every year we get cases of small children or individuals – they jump up and fall across the fire and are seriously burned.”
An important safety tip for rural residents is to examine the environment around your fire pit, Smith said. Special attention should be paid to grass.
“Is it a nice green lawn or is it long-brown grass, which is just a recipe for having a major grass fire,” he said. “[The] second thing is to watch the winds, which can come up very quickly and carry sparks and embers a long way...we see a lot of grass fires started this way.”
Smith said there should be plenty of clearance – typically four meters – from any combustible materials, trees, shrubs, buildings and sheds.
He added the old adage “bigger is better” should not be applied to fire pits, which should not exceed 24 inches in height. Flames should not get more than one metre high.
“Fifty feet in the air may look good, but it is a huge hazard,” he said. “Keep your fire pit to a reasonable size.”
Residents might want to consider alternatives to traditional fire pits, Smith said. Propane fire pits are becoming more popular, especially in urban areas, and are generally safer.
“They’re awesome,” he said. “You can turn them on and off, they have no spark and no smoke and they look like a fire and are extremely safe.”
With cell phones and neighbours monitoring neighbours, RVC Fire Services sees less fire pit related accidents, Smith said, but people still need to be cautious.
“[I] guarantee if you leave your fire pit unattended and it’s visible by the road, someone’s going to call the fire department,” he said.
Additional fire pit safety guidelines are available at rockyview.ca