Winter brings its own fire and safety risks. On this page we share information about:

  • Christmas tree safety
  • Holiday lights and decoration safety
  • Holiday entertaining safety
  • Ice safety
  • Removing snow for safety

Christmas tree safety

Christmas trees cause numerous house fires each year and should be carefully chosen and maintained. Follow these rules to help prevent holiday fires:

  • make sure your natural Christmas tree is fresh when you bring it home
  • water your natural tree regularly to prevent it from becoming dry and more flammable
  • never burn your Christmas tree in a fireplace or woodstove
  • place your tree at the curb during the dedicated curbside pick up dates on the City waste calendar 
  • look for a "Fire Resistant" label when purchasing an artificial tree

Holiday lights and decoration safety

When decorating your home for the holidays, keep these safety tips in mind:

  • only use CSA approved lights for both indoor and outdoor decorating
  • make sure electrical cords are in good condition
  • never plug more light sets end to end than is listed on the manufacturer's recommendation
  • turn all lights off before going to bed or leaving the house
  • plug all decorative lights and electric decorations into electrical circuits protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)
  • keep the tree and all decorations away from open flames such as candles and fireplaces

Holiday entertaining safety

Fires can start easily when we are distracted by cooking and company. During the holidays, remember to:

  • test your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms
  • practice your home escape plan
  • stay in the kitchen while cooking
  • keep matches and lighters away from children

Ice safety

No ice is safe ice and conditions can change in an instant. Obey warning messages and stay off frozen waterways if possible. Always check with local authorities before heading out and never go out alone on ice at night.

Signs to look for before going out on the ice:

Ice colour

The colour of ice may be an indication of its strength:

  • clear blue ice is strongest
  • white opaque or snow ice is half as strong as blue ice
  • grey ice means there is water and is unsafe

Ice thickness

Measuring the ice is safer than relying on the colour. Minimum thickness should be:

  • 15 cm for walking or skating alone
  • 20 cm for skating parties or games
  • 25 cm for snowmobiles

When You Are Alone on Ice

If you get into trouble on ice and you're by yourself:

  1. Call for help.
  2. Resist the immediate urge to climb back out where you fell in. The ice is weak in this area.
  3. Try to relax and catch your breath. Turn yourself toward shore so you are looking at where you entered onto the ice. The ice is more stable close to shore.
  4. Reach forward onto the broken ice without pushing down. Kick your legs to try to get your body into a horizontal position.
  5. Continue kicking your legs, and crawl onto the ice.
  6. When you are back on the ice, crawl on your stomach or roll away from the open area with your arms and legs spread out as far as possible to evenly distribute your body weight. Do not stand up! Look for shore and make sure you are crawling in the right direction.

When You Are with Others on Ice

Rescuing another person from ice can be dangerous. The safest way to perform a rescue is from shore by following these steps:

  1. Call for help. Consider whether you can quickly get help from trained professionals (police, fire fighters or ambulance) or bystanders.
  2. Check if you can reach the person using a long pole or branch from shore – if so, lie down and extend the pole to the person.

Then, if you do need to go out onto the ice to help someone in trouble:

  1. Wear a PFD and carry a long pole or branch to test the ice in front of you. Bring something to reach or throw to the person (e.g. pole, weighted rope, line or tree branch).
  2. When near the break, lie down to distribute your weight and slowly crawl toward the hole.
  3. Remaining low, extend or throw your emergency rescue device (pole, rope, line or branch) to the person.
  4. Have the person kick while you pull them out.

Move the person to a safe position on shore or where you are sure the ice is thick. Signal for help.

Removing snow for safety

Snow and ice can make an emergency situation worse in the winter if it blocks your escape, covers an exhaust vent, or has buried the fire hydrant. Stay safe during the winter by:

  • keeping all entry/exit areas of your home clear from snow so that you can get out in case of a fire
  • opening windows regularly to make sure they are not frozen shut if you need them as an escape route
  • clearing snow and ice from your exhaust vents to prevent dangerous carbon monoxide levels
  • shoveling around the closest fire hydrant as a courtesy to the fire department: a three m radius around the hydrant can save the firefighters valuable time if there is a fire on your street

Contact Us

Clarence-Rockland Fire Department