Block Heater Fires Can Be Prevented – How to stay safe this winter

Last Updated: January 4, 2022By

Alberta gets cold in the winter and with the cold, machinery tends to not work correctly.

Recently, the Lakeland has been in a deep freeze and the Chief of the Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority (BRFA) says this cold we are experiencing is hard on both people and equipment.

“Make sure your vehicle is in good working order, have your thermostat and block heater inspected,” Dan Heney Regional Fire Chief of the BRFA said. “When plugging in your vehicle, use a cold-rated extension cord free from damage.”

Many people plug in their vehicles during this cold weather so they will start in the morning.

But block heater cords, block heaters, and the extension cords used to plug them in can also cause issues that lead to fires.

Here are some tips to prevent fires.

  • Don’t drive over your extension cord. This can cause cracking/breaking during bitterly cold weather.
  • Cover your block heater plug-in with its protective cover.
  • Unplug your block heater by using the hard, rubber end. Pulling on the electrical cord can cause breakage and potential electrical issues.
  • Have your block heater cord inspected each fall by a qualified mechanic.

Regional Fire Chief Heney says a general rule of thumb is to plug in your engine block heater when the weather reaches -15° C or lower.

Director of Protective Services, Kirk Hughes says the first, and arguably the most important is to use a properly rated heavy-duty extension cord when plugging in, which can be purchased at Northern Truck and Industrial Supplies.

“Inspect the cords, both the extension and the one attached to the vehicle itself,” Chief Hughes told Lakeland Connect. “Look for fraying of any sort, discoloration, nicks, any burn or char marks or any damage to the prongs – especially evidence of corrosion.”

If you see that, you’re going to need a new cord, Chief Hughes added.

“A good way to prevent any unnecessary internal damage to the cord is to unplug it using the rubber end and not the cord itself. Avoid driving over the cord, it’s hard and happens to us all, but try a trick or two to remind yourself that the cord is plugged in, like looping it over your mirror,” Chief Hughes said.

Another good tip is to avoid plugging in the block heater if it is in an enclosed shelter, such as a garage – especially if the garage is attached to the house.

“Fires in garages spread quickly and often go unnoticed by the occupants,” Chief Hughes said.

If you’re going to be plugging in your vehicle make sure everything is working correctly.

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