2021 'amazing' record low year for fires in Yellowknife

·3 min read
With just over a week left in 2021, the Yellowknife fire department is celebrating a record low number, three, of structure fires in the city. 'That's half from last year. And last year was half from the year before,' said the city's deputy fire chief. (Walter Strong/CBC - image credit)
With just over a week left in 2021, the Yellowknife fire department is celebrating a record low number, three, of structure fires in the city. 'That's half from last year. And last year was half from the year before,' said the city's deputy fire chief. (Walter Strong/CBC - image credit)

Heading toward the end of 2021, Yellowknife's deputy fire chief is celebrating a record low number of structure fires in the city this year.

"Although there have been many false alarms and some vehicle fires … there have only been three structure fires this year," said Gerda Groothuizen.

"That is an amazing year. That's half from last year. And last year was half from the year before. So Yellowknifers are doing absolutely fantastic when it comes to fire safety awareness."

One of the three fires in the city in 2021 was due to arson, while the other two were caused by extinguishing smoking material in flower pots on decks.

While Groothuizen said there is no one cause for the low number of fires, she suspects that people spending more time in their own homes due to COVID-19 has led to "higher awareness" of potential hazards.

"We really like seeing that," she said. " We don't want to see people put out of their homes due to fire, we don't want to see people injured and we definitely don't want to see people dying because of fires."

In these last few days of the year, Groothuizen is encouraging Yellowknifers to "keep up the great job" and keep fire safety in mind as they celebrate the holidays.

Dangerous decorations and holiday hazards

Groothuizen flagged four areas to keep a particularly close eye on during the holiday season — trees, lights, candles and cooking.

Because a Christmas tree can be very dry and flammable, "if it starts to burn, it will burn so fast that we won't be able to stop it," said Groothuizen.

To avoid that, she suggested cutting an inch or two off the base of the tree after you bring it home, and then putting it in water.

"These trees will suck up about four litres of water a day, which will prevent them from drying out so rapidly," she said.

She also encouraged people to double-check all their Christmas lights for damage.

"Don't use them if the cords are damaged — please replace them," she said. "It's the same with extension cords. If they are damaged at all, please replace the cords, they're not that expensive.

"And when you do use extension cords, don't put them under carpeting because extension cords will heat up, and that could cause a fire."

Cooking fires are another common Christmastime problem, Groothuizen said, especially if people are tired, have been drinking or are otherwise distracted.

"If you're going out for a night on the town and coming home with a few drinks under your belt, please do not cook — either order out or make something that you don't need to cook," said Groothuizen.

"Every year, we have people that are cooking and then they fall asleep, and then whatever they were cooking on the stove burns. Then the apartment or the home fills with smoke and we get called in."

And while candles "give a great ambiance," Groothuizen also recommended keeping them away from table edges and flammable surfaces, and closely supervising any children or pets who might get too curious about the open flame.

Fireworks permits a must

In advance of New Year's Eve, Groothuizen also reminded local pyrotechnic enthusiasts to get a permit from the Yellowknife fire department if they want to set off fireworks this year.

The permits indicate where people can safely launch their fireworks, keeping them out of backyards and flight paths.

Groothuizen said unapproved firework displays have been a problem around New Year's in Yellowknife in the past.

"I don't think it's done maliciously," she said. "I think it's because people don't know. So if you want to set off fireworks, make sure you get your permit and make sure you know where it's permitted."

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