Ministry of the
Solicitor General

Fire Losses: Causes, Trends, Issues

Fire Loss in Ontario 2013–2017

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 2013 to 2017.


 

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 2013 to 2017 the number of total calls reported – fire and non fire calls has increased from 455,146 incidents reported in 2013 to 514,014 in 2017.

Loss fires are defined as any fire with an injury, fatality or dollar loss reported (injuries/fatalities include civilian and firefighter).

All Loss fires reported have declined from 10,733 in 2013 to 10,296 in 2017.

Structure fires are about 65% (2017) of the total fires with loss.

The graph shows a total decline from 7,191 in 2013 to 6,679 in 2017.

Residential fires account for about 72% (2017) of structure loss fires. These fires have also decreased from 5,268 in 2013 to 4,806 in 2017.

Overview of fires (with loss reported*)

 

Loss fires by Property class

From 2013 to 2017, there were 53,459 fires with loss reported to the OFMEM.

  • 49% of these fires occurred in Residential occupancies.
  • 27% occurred in vehicles.
  • 11% 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 2013 to 2017, there were 35,342 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 – 8%
  • Assembly occupancies –4%
  • Mercantile – 3%
  • 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

8% of the structure loss fires were suspected to be arson or vandalism (intentionally set).

Between 2013and 2017 the ignition sources in other (not intentionally set) 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;
  • 5% other electrical, mechanical;
  • 4% Exposure fires;
  • 3% other open flame tools (excluding matches, lighters);
  • 2% lighting excluding candles;
  • 1% 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 2008 to 2012 with the 5 year period 2013 to 2017 shows that structure fires ignited by cooking equipment, heating/cooling, electrical wiring and appliances have declined.

  • Cooking 2013-2017 - average of 1,268 fires per year, a decline of 8%.
  • Electrical wiring, outlets, etc. 2013-2017 - average of 627 fires per year, a decline of 11%.
  • Heating, cooling 2013-2017 - average of 566 fires per year, a decline of 17%.
  • Cigarettes 2013-2017 - 506 fires per year, a decline of 6%.
  • Appliances 2013-2017 - 328 fire per year, a decline of 5%.

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


 

Structure Loss Fires* Ignition source: Cooking Equipment

*Excluding Arson.


From 2013 to 2017 the number of structure loss fires ignited by cooking equipment have varied – from a high of 1328 fires in 2014 to a low of 1217 in 2017.

Most of these fires occur in residential structures (in 2017 – 88%).

Injuries have varied over this period.

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% (2017) of the electrical structure loss 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 2013 to 2017 the number of fires identified as ignited by electrical equipment range from a high of 663 in 2014 to a low of 588 in 2017.

The number of injuries shows no trend, ranging from a high of 56 in 2015 to a low of 39 in 2016.

Fatalities range from 0 to 6 between 2013 and 2017. 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 645 fires reported in 2013 down to 492 in 2017, a decrease of 24%. Home fires account for 75% (2017) of these fires.

Fatalities range from 0 to 3 between 2013 and 2017. Small numbers are easily impacted by only a few fire incidents, so trends may be difficult to identify.

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 2017, 89% of fires started by lit smoking materials occurred in the home.

Lit smokers materials – cigarettes, are the number 4 ignition source in fires but the number 1 ignition source in fatal fires.

Similar to the number of fires, fire deaths between 2013 and 2017 have fluctuated.

Increasing between 2013 to 2015 from 14 to 25 fatalities, and then decreasing between 2015 and 2017 from 25 to 19 fatalities.

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 varied between 368 and 301 from 2013 to 2017.

In 2017, 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 (in 2013) to a low of 16 (in 2016).

There were zero fatalities for each year between 2014 and 2017, and for 2013 there were 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 98 in 2017.

In 2017, 97% of the candle fires occur in the home.

There is fluctuation in the numbers of injuries reported.

Fatalities range from 0 to 3 between 2013 and 2017. Small numbers are easily impacted by only a few fire incidents, so trends may be difficult to identify.

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

Structure Loss Fires* Ignition source: Candles



 

 

Structure Loss Fires* Ignition source: Matches or lighters

*Excluding Arson.

There was a 38% decrease in the number of fires ignited by matches/lighters (excluding arson) from 226 in 1996 to 140 in 2002. The number has been varied over the last five years between 59 and 66 fires per year.

Fatalities range from 0 to 5 between 2013 and 2017. Small numbers are easily impacted by only a few fire incidents, so trends may be difficult to identify.

Arson accounts for 68% (2017) of all the fires ignited by matches or lighters (not included in this chart).

Structure Loss Fires* Ignition source: Matches or lighters