Patio heaters pose a fire risk, firefighters warn as restaurants winterize

Oct 3 2020, 6:59 pm

A group of Ontario firefighters are cautioning the public about the risk of fire or carbon monoxide poisoning from patio heaters as restaurants around the country winterize their patios for outdoor pandemic dining.

Fuel-powered patio heaters can pose risks if they’re not used properly, the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs said in a news release for fire prevention week.

Both portable heaters and flame units that are fixed in place should only be used outdoors, and should not be turned on inside a tent or next to anything flammable — such as a table cloth.

“Not only do portable heaters need to be installed, used, and maintained correctly, they must also be a safe distance from flammable objects, and be properly ventilated,” OAFC president Chief Cynthia Ross Tustin said.

They’re also reminding restaurant and hospitality workers that propane units should always be kept indoors when they’re not connected to a heater, should always be stored upright, and no one should be smoking near them.

“Our inspectors have reported seeing some propane cylinders stored inside buildings or unprotected in parking lots,” John Marshall with the Canadian Propane Association said. “We recognize that some restaurants and bars have not operated patios before and may not be aware of the potential hazards associated with patio heaters and propane cylinders.”

To help restaurant owners who may be winterizing their patios for the first time, the group has created an online guide for safely installing patio heaters.

Several cities around Canada, including Toronto and North Vancouver, have committed to helping restaurants get the proper approvals to keep their patios open for pandemic-friendly dining all winter long.

Megan DevlinMegan Devlin

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