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‘A metre from the heater’

Whitehorse firefighters issue reminder about heater safety
The Whitehorse Fire Department used this burnt out space heater as an example of the sorts of situations that can result in heater fires over the winter season. In this case the heater was placed too close to combustibles. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)

As frigid temperatures continue to grip the territory, City of Whitehorse firefighters are reminding residents to take a cautious approach to cranking the heat and plugging in those extra space heaters.

Members of the fire department spoke with media at a press event on Dec. 20, outlining safety measures residents can take to prevent heater and outlet fires.

“When it gets really cold like it is right now, people are potentially using baseboard heaters that they don’t normally have on … or they’re turning them up higher,” firefighter Kiara Adams said, noting one of the big issues that cause fires at this time of year is combustible materials being too close to a heater.

Perhaps an easy way to remember and follow that recommendation is by going by a rule of “a meter from the heater”, as Adams put it.

While that works well when figuring out where to put things like furniture, shoes and boots, or at this time of year, a Christmas tree, its also important to keep an eye out and make sure nothing has fallen near the heater — loose paper or leaves from a houseplant, for example.

Making sure the heater is free of dust that can often build up without being noticed is also a good way to help prevent fires from happening.

Following instructions provided with space heaters or other electrical appliances is also advised. Space heaters, for example, shouldn’t be plugged into power bars, but rather directly into wall outlets.

When power bars are in use for other appliances, splitters shouldn’t be used. As Adams described, one plug per outlet on the power bar is the most that should be in use.

Adams said the department responds to about a couple of calls each week that arise from either heater-type issues or chimney fires.

Provided someone is at home or in the building when it happens, the incident might be minor and limited to damage to a heater, for example. If no one is there at the time, it could result in a larger structure fire, Adams said.

In addition to being cautious about heaters, Adams also advised residents that loose, wobbly outlets that are difficult to plug into should be fixed before they are used as those are often how fires to walls get started. This can particularly be the case in older homes as outlets see wear and tear over the years.

Both the city and the territory’s fire marshal office is working to share the fire safety message with the public.

Also on-hand for the event was deputy fire marshal Ursula Geisler who noted the territory is making efforts to deliver education - such as that around heaters - to the territory.

“It’s a big topic to tackle,” she said.

A number of community tours were held this year to bring education to various communities in the territory with the fire marshal also working with volunteer fire departments to help deliver educational initiatives at schools and community events in rural Yukon.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at

Stephanie Waddell

About the Author: Stephanie Waddell

I joined Black Press in 2019 as a reporter for the Yukon News, becoming editor in February 2023.
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