Emergency officials are reminding people who may still be without power in the wake of hurricane Dorian not to use camping stoves inside their homes.
Matt Covey, division chief of Fire Prevention with Halifax Fire, said burning fuel such as propane can lead to a potentially deadly build-up of carbon monoxide.
Some have posted photos on social media showing the cooking stoves in use on top of their regular appliances as they prepare food and hot beverages.
“When it comes to camping stoves specifically, most of them will say right on them ‘for outdoor use only,’ so never, obviously, use that indoors,” Covey said on Monday.
“With those outdoor-use-only ones, they’re not designed to the same safety standard that you’d see, for, say your gas stove that’s inside your house.”
Opening a window can provide some ventilation but Covey said that’s not going to guarantee your safety. Even if a carbon monoxide detector is installed in the home, if the power is out, it’s relying on the battery backup, which might not be fully charged or in need of battery replacement.
He also raised the scenario of a person who had been cooking when the power went out but forgot to turn off the burner.
“Say that same person was then cooking inside, say Sunday, and left their camping stove on their stove-top, with the propane tank just sitting there on the burner. (If) they’re at work right now and the power came on right now, that’s a big problem. So just another reason why you don’t want to have these things inside. It can be a combination of factors or an unexpected factor that really can be the hazard.”
Covey also pointed out there’s an increased danger with handling fuel, whether it’s connecting propane tanks or filling containers with some kind of fluid.
“And they’re mobile, they can be moved, they can be knocked over, and so they’re much more of a hazard than something that’s actually built into your kitchen,” he said.
Seeing people take such risks raise concerns for Halifax Fire, he said.
“Absolutely. We have had carbon monoxide poisoning issues in the city in the past, so they’re very real and they’re very scary because it’s a colourless, odourless gas that can kind of sneak up on you and it can be fatal.”
Other equipment users should never employ inside include generators, propane heaters, barbecues and gas lanterns, he said.
Karen Wong-Petrie, Department of Environment’s Emergency Planning Officer, also added charcoal grills and Hibachis to the list of cooking sources people should be careful to use outdoors.
“I’ve seen situations where people are using them in basement garages and they’re opening the windows of the basement or garage. That’s very hazardous, still. It’s not enough air exchange to ensure that it’s a safe use of that.”
Camping gear does not compare to natural gas ranges some use in their kitchen daily, Wong-Petrie said.
“Those pieces of equipment are equipped with valves and shut-offs and alarms around that equipment,” she said. “They are meant to be used in that manner and it’s equipment that’s professionally installed and vented.”