Red Deer fire marshal Wes Van Bavel (File photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)

Cold snap and holidays can boost fire risk

Number of fires often spikes when it’s cold or over the holidays

A severe cold snap and the holiday season both raised the risk of fire tragedies, say fire officials.

Red Deer Emergency Services fire marshall Wes Van Bavel said it’s not uncommon for firefighters to see a spike in blazes from mid-December through the New Year.

“Cooking, candles, portable heaters and/or fireplaces are the leading causes of fires during the holiday season,” said Van Bavel Friday.

Across Alberta, the number of fires jumps 30 per cent over the holidays, he said.

So far, Red Deer has avoided an increase in fires.

A 31-year-old man died in a house fire in Normandeau Dec. 17. A cause has not yet been determined.

There have also been a number of vehicle fires, but no other house fires, said Van Bavel.

“We like to credit a lot of it to our home safety program,” he said. Red Deer Emergency Services gets out to about 3,000 homes a year, providing safety inspections and tips.

Provincially, there were 1.2 fires per 1,000 people on average in 2016, the last year for which statistics are available. Red Deer was at 0.7 fires per 1,000 people in 2016, and 2017 is expected to be about the same.

Red Deer County fire inspector Travis Allred also added words of caution.

“We’re very much urging people with this cold snap that we’re having to try to find safe ways to heat,” he said.

“With this cold weather people are trying extraordinary means to heat things and defrost things. We need them to do that in the safest manner possible.”

People should be wary of using propane and charcoal or other heat sources in enclosed areas. Overloaded electrical systems is another danger to be conscious of, he said.

“We often see a spike during these cold snaps. And that’s just due to people trying to thaw things out.”

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