Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services :: Fatal Fires: Summary

Ontario Fatal Fires: 10 years
2003 - 2012

The information in this report is for Ontario Fatal fires during the ten year period from 2003 to 2012.

Data Source: The Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management (OFMEM) investigates fatal fires in Ontario.

Revised: November 2013

Ontario Fire Fatalities

In most fires only 1 person dies, however there are a small number of fatal fires each year where there are multiple fatalities.

In 2003, there were 110 fire fatalities.
In 2012, there were 70 fire fatalities.

Fire deaths on First Nations and Federal properties in Ontario are excluded from these totals.

Fire deaths in vehicle accidents are not included in these totals.

Chart - Ontario Fire Fatalities



Fire Death Rate in Ontario: All Fatalities

The fire death rate is the number of fatalities per million population.

In 2003 there were 110 fire deaths, the population was 12.3 million, the fire death rate was 8.9.

In 2012 there were 70 fire deaths, the population was 13.4 million, the fire death rate was 5.2.

Fire deaths on First Nations and Federal properties in Ontario are excluded from these totals.

Fire deaths in vehicle accidents are not included in these totals.

Chart - Fire Death Rate in Ontario: All Fatalities

Fire Death rate: the number of fire fatalities divided by the population multiplied by 1 million.



Fire Death Rate in Ontario: Structure Fires 

The majority of the fire deaths occur in structures.

The fire death rate is the number of fatalities per million population.

In 2003 there were 100 fire deaths in structures, the population was 12.3 million, the fire death rate was 8.1.

In 2012 there were 63 fire deaths in structures, the population was 13.4 million, the fire death rate was 4.7.

Fire deaths on First Nations and Federal properties in Ontario are excluded from these totals.

Fire deaths in vehicle accidents are not included in these totals.

Chart - Fire Death Rate in Ontario: Structure Fires

Fire Death rate: the number of fire fatalities divided by the population multiplied by 1 million



Ontario Fatal fires

The number of fatal fires in Ontario was 94 in 2003 and 62 in 2012.

Fatal fires occurring on First Nations or Federal properties are not included in these totals.

Fire deaths occurring in vehicle accidents are not included in these totals.

Chart - Ontario Fatal fires



Fatal fires by month: 10 year averages

A higher number of fatal fires/fire fatalities occur in the winter months. Fatal fires involving smoking and heating are higher during this period.

The 2003 to 2012, 10 year average number of fatal fires per month were:

January - 8; February - 7; March - 9; April - 8; May - 6 ; June - 4; July - 5; August - 4; September - 5; October - 6; November - 7; December - 11

Fatal fires occurring on First Nations or Federal properties are not included in these totals.

Fire deaths occurring in vehicle accidents are not included in these totals.

Chart - Fatal fires by month: 10 year averages



Ontario Fatal Fires by Hour of day

More fatal fires occur in the late night/early morning hours.

45% of fatal fires occurred between 10 pm and 6 am

Chart - Ontario Fatal Fires by Hour of day



Fatal fires: Cause class

Most fatal fires are unintentional and could have been prevented. Over 10 years, OFMEM Fire Investigators have determined that 17% of the fatal fires were Intentional (Arson, homicide, suicide), 52% were Unintentional/Preventable, 30% Undetermined (the evidence was destroyed or inconclusive). 1% of fires were under investigation at the time of this report.

Preventable Fires include:

  • Misuse of Ignition Source or material first ignited 41%
  • Electrical/mechanical failure 4%
  • Children playing 1%
  • Design/construction/maintenance deficiency 2%
  • Other unintentional 4%

Chart - Fatal fires: Cause class



Fatal Fires: Property Class

85% of fatal fires occurred in residential properties. Vehicle fire deaths (6%) are those where the fire DID NOT result from a vehicle accident. These deaths occurred in parked vehicles, and often the fire was intentionally set (e.g. suicide).

6% occurred outdoors or in structures not classified by the building code. The majority of “Not classified by Ontario Building Code” are outdoor fires.

1% occurred in each of these property types – Industrial or Detention and Care.

The majority of preventable fires resulting in a fire death are in residential occupancies, so the focus of the following information is on fatal fires that occur in the home.

Chart - Fatal fires: Property Class



Fire Death Rate in Ontario: Residential Structure Fires

The majority of the fire deaths occur in residential structures.

The fire death rate is the number of fatalities per million population.

In 2003 there were 96 fire deaths in residential structures, the population was 12.3 million, the fire death rate was 7.8.

In 2012 there were 59 fire deaths in residential structures, the population was 13.4 million, the fire death rate was 4.4.

Fire deaths on First Nations and Federal properties in Ontario are excluded from these totals.

Fire deaths in vehicle accidents are not included in these totals.

Chart - Fire Death Rate in Ontario: Residential Structure Fires

Fire Death rate: the number of fire fatalities divided by the population multiplied by 1 million



Residential Fatal Fires: Ignition Source

The ignition sources in 10 years of fatal residential fires (674 fires) were determined by OFMEM investigations.

  • Fires where the Ignition source is Unknown (Undetermined, Unintentional Undetermined, not reported or under investigation) 35% (238 fatal fires).
  • Lit Smokers’ materials (cigarettes, pipes) is the ignition source that is involved in the most fatal fires at 21% (141 fatal fires).
  • Arson which includes homicide and suicide was the cause in 13% of fatal fires (88 fatal fires).
  • Cooking equipment is at 10% (69 fatal fires).
  • Matches and Lighters 5% (36 fatal fires).
  • Electrical wiring 3% (23 fatal fires).
  • Candles 3% (19 fatal fires).
  • Heating, including furnaces and fireplaces 2% (15 fatal fires).

Chart - Residential Fatal Fires: Ignition Source



Residential Fatal Fires: Ignition Source 
Average number of fire fatalities per year

Excluding arson and ignition source undetermined

Comparing the average number of fire fatalities by ignition source during the 5 year period 2003 to 2007 with the 5 year period 2008 to 2012 shows that fire fatalities in fires ignited by cigarettes and cooking have increased.

Cigarettes 2003-2007, 14 fire fatalities per year.

Cigarettes 2008-2012, 17 fire fatalities per year.

Cooking 2003-2007, 6 fire fatalities per year.

Cooking 2008-2012, 9 fire fatalities per year.

Matches and Lighters 2008-2012, 2 fire fatalities per year.

Electrical wiring 2008-2012, 1 fire fatality per year.

Heating 2008-2012, 1 fire fatality per year.

Candles 2008-2012, 1 fire fatality per year.

Chart - Residential Fatal Fires: Ignition Source, Average number of fire fatalities per year



Residential Fire fatalities: By age group

From 2003 to 2012

6% (44) of the fire fatalities were under 10years;

6% (46) were 10 to 19;

6% (46) were 20 to 29 ;

8% (63) were 30 to 39;

20% (159) were 40 to 49;

15% (115) were 50 to 59;

13% (98) were 60 to 69;

13% (103) were 70 to 79;

13% (99) were 80+.

(For more information see report: “Residential fatalities 10 years: Adult, children, seniors”.)

Chart - Residential Fire fatalities: By age group



Smoke Alarm Operation: Fatal Residential fires *

* Arson fires not included

Investigations provided information on smoke alarm operation in 72% of preventable fatal residential fires – in 28% the presence of a smoke alarm could not be determined.

In 35% of preventable residential fires where there was a fatality there was no smoke alarm warning: 16% there was no smoke alarm, and in 19% the smoke alarm did not operate (3% of alarms had a dead battery, 6% had no battery, 4% were beyond the smoke area, 6 % other reason for non operation).

In 28% of these fatal fires there was a smoke alarm that operated.

In 9% of these fatal fires the operation of the smoke alarm could not be determined.

Note: Residential property, “Detached garage” and “Tent” excluded from Total Fatal fires.

Chart - Smoke Alarm Operation: Fatal Residential fires