Fire Losses: Causes, Trends, Issues


Fire Loss in Ontario 2011–2015

Causes, Trends and Issues

The Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management has an historical database which contains reports filed by fire departments on every fire call. Municipal fire departments report to the OFMEM on every call they attend (fires and non-fires). 

This data can be viewed in many ways - by province, by municipality, over time, at specific types of occupancies, ignition sources, and even by injuries or fatalities.

This summary provides information on Ontario loss fires, fires with a reported injury, fatality or dollar loss, for the five year period from 2011 to 2015.

 

Overview of fires (with loss reported*)

*fires resulting in an injury, fatality or dollar loss

The graph shows that the total fires reported have been decreasing, even as the number of population and structures have been increasing. This does not reflect decreased reporting.  From 2011 to 2015 the number of total calls reported – fire and non fire calls has decreased by 2% from 486,027 incidents reported in 2011 to 477,169 in 2015.

Loss fires are defined as any fire with an injury, fatality or dollar loss reported.

All Loss fires reported have declined from 11,501 in 2011 to 10,951 in 2015. 

Structure fires are about 66% (2015) of the total fires with loss.  The number of these types of fires have been decreasing. 

The graph shows a total decline from 7,522 in 2011 to 7,240 in 2015.

Residential fires account for about 74% (2015) of structure fire losses.  These fires have also decreased from 5,400 in 2011 to 5,385 in 2015.

Fire Losses, Causes and Trends: Overview of fires


Loss fires by Property class

From 2011 to 2015, there were 55,108 fires with loss reported to the OFMEM. 

  • 48% of these fires occurred in Residential occupancies.
  • 27% occurred in vehicles.
  • 12% of fires occurred on structures/properties not classified by the Ontario Building code – this includes many non structure property types – land, outdoor storage, and some structures ranging from barns to weather stations.
  • 5% of loss fires occurred in Industrial occupancies.
  • 3% in Assembly occupancies.
  • 2% in Mercantile occupancies
  • 2% in Business and personal services occupancies.
  • 1% in Care and detention occupancies.

The distribution of fire occurrence across property type has been relatively unchanged over the years.

Loss fires by Property class


Loss Fires Property class: Structures only

From 2011 to 2015, there were 36,508 Structure fires with loss reported to the OFMEM.

  • Fires in residential occupancies account for 73% of structure loss fires.
  • Properties not classified by the Ontario Building code – 8%
  • Industrial occupancies – 7%
  • Assembly occupancies –4%
  • Mercantile – 4%
  • Business and Personal Services – 3%
  • Care and Detention Occupancies – 1%

This distribution of fire incidents across structure property types has been consistent over many years.

Loss Fires Property class: Structures only


Structure Loss Fires: Ignition source

9% of structure loss fires were suspected to be arson or vandalism.

Between 2011 and 2015 the ignition sources in other structure loss fires were:-

  • 18% cooking;
  • 9% electrical distribution equipment – wiring;
  • 8% heating/cooling;
  • 8% miscellaneous ( which includes fires - natural causes and chemical reactions);
  • 7% cigarettes;
  • 5% appliances;
  • 4% other electrical, mechanical;
  • 3% other open flame tools (excluding matches, lighters), 3% Exposure fires;
  • 2% candles; 2% lighting excluding candles;
  • 1% matches or lighters (excluding arson fires); 1% processing equipment;
  • 20% reported as undetermined.

Structure Loss Fires: Ignition source


Structure Loss Fires: Ignition source, Average number of fires* per year

*Excluding Arson fires and ignition source undetermined.


Comparing the average number of fire fatalities by ignition source during the 5 year period 2006 to 2010 with the 5 year period 2011 to 2015 shows that structure fires ignited by cooking equipment, heating/cooling, electrical wiring and appliances have declined.

  • Cooking 2011-2015 - average of 1,284 fires per year, a decline of 11%.
  • Electrical wiring, outlets, etc. 2011-2015 - average of 651 fires per year, a decline of 14%.
  • Heating, cooling 2011-2015 - average of 607 fires per year, a decline of 19%.
  • Cigarettes 2011-2015  - 526 fires per year, a decline of 5%.
  • Appliances 2011-2015 - 337 fire per year, a decline of 10%.

Structure Loss Fires: Ignition source, Average number of fires* per year


Structure Loss Fires* Ignition source: Cooking Equipment

*Excluding Arson.


From 2011 to 2015 there is decrease in the number of structure fires ignited by cooking equipment. 

Most of these fires occur in residential structures (in 2015 - 91%).

Injuries have varied over this period.

The number of fatalities in fires ignited by cooking equipment has dropped over the past 5 years from a high of 10 in 2011 to a low of 3 in 2014.

With small numbers of fatalities, a single fire resulting in multiple deaths make trends difficult to discern.

Structure Loss Fires* Ignition source: Cooking Equipment


Structure Loss Fires* Ignition source:  Electrical distribution equipment

*Excluding Arson.

67% (2015) of the electrical fires occurred in residential properties, most of the injuries and virtually all of the fire deaths in fires started by electrical equipment occurred in homes.

From 2011 to 2015 the number of fires identified as ignited by electrical equipment declined from 680 to 640, a drop of 6% in the number of fires.

The number of injuries shows no trend, ranging from a high of 56 in 2015 to 34 in 2012.

Fatalities range from 6 in 2014 to 0 in 2013.  There is no trend evident.  Small numbers can be impacted significantly by the incidence of only a few fires or a fire resulting in multiple fatalities.

Structure Loss Fires* Ignition source:  Electrical distribution equipment


Structure Loss Fires* Ignition source: Heating equipment

*Excluding Arson.

Heating equipment and electrical equipment fires factor significantly as ignition sources in home fires.

There was a decline in fires started by heating equipment from 649 fires reported in 2011 down to 552 in 2015, a decrease of 15%.  Home fires account for 82% (2015) of these fires.

There is no discernible trend in the number of injuries in fires started by heating equipment.

Fatalities range from 0 to 3 between 2011 and 2015.  Small numbers are easily impacted by only a few fire incidents, so trends cannot be identified.

Structure Loss Fires* Ignition source: Heating equipment



Structure Loss Fires* Ignition source: Lit Smoking materials

(cigarettes, cigars, pipes, excluding matches or lighters)

*Excluding Arson.

In 2015, 89% of fires started by lit smoking materials occurred in the home. 

Lit smokers materials – cigarettes, are the number 1 ignition source in fatal fires.

The number of fatalities in fires started by lit smoking materials showed a significant downward trend from 30 fatalities in 1997 to 13 in 2005. 

Between 2011and 2015 there was a range of 14 to 25 fatalities. However, with the small number of incidents, a fire with multiple deaths can create variations that are not indicative of a trend.

Structure Loss Fires* Ignition source: Lit Smoking materials (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, excluding matches or lighters)


Structure Loss Fires* Ignition source: Appliances

*Excluding Arson.

Fires ignited by appliances have decreased by 3% from 2011 to 2015.

In 2015, 82% of fires ignited by appliances were in homes.

The number of injuries reported in fires ignited by appliances has varied ranging from a high of 30 to a low of 18. No trend is evident.

There were zero fatalities for each year between 2011 and 2015, except for 2013 that had 7 fatalities (from three fires). Small numbers can be impacted significantly by the incidence of only a few fires or a fire resulting in multiple fatalities.

Structure Loss Fires* Ignition source: Appliances


Structure Loss Fires* Ignition source: Candles

*Excluding Arson.

While the number of fires ignited by candles is small, it is the only ignition source that showed an increase in the number of fires to the year 2003. In 1995 there were 206 fires ignited by candles.  By 2003 this had increased to 316, an increase of  53% when other ignition sources were on the decline.  In 2008 Candle fires dropped and continued to decline to 105 in 2015.

In 2015, 97% of the candle fires occur in the home.

There is no trend in the numbers of injuries or fatalities.

Fires ignited by candles out number fires ignited by matches and lighters (excluding arson).

Structure Loss Fires* Ignition source: Candles


Structure Loss Fires* Ignition source: Matches or lighters

*Excluding Arson.

Arson accounts for 65% (2015) of the fires ignited by matches or lighters (not included in this chart).

There was a 38% decrease in the number of these fires from 226 in 1996 to 140 in 2002, and a 13% decrease from a high of 76 fires in 2011 to 66 in 2015. 

There is no trend in injuries.

Fatalities in preventable fires ignited by matches or lighters is variable and shows no trend, ranging from a peak of 5 deaths to 0, varying year to year.

Structure Loss Fires* Ignition source: Matches or lighters