Ministry of the
Solicitor General

Fire Losses: Causes, Trends, Issues

Fire Loss in Ontario - 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 ten year period from 2009 to 2018.

Overview of fires (with loss reported*)

*fires resulting in an injury, fatality or dollar loss

The graph shows that the total fires reported in general have been decreasing, even as the number of population and structures have been increasing. This does not reflect decreased reporting.  From 2009 to 2018 the number of total calls reported – fire and non fire calls has increased from 484,625 incidents reported in 2009 to 546,083 in 2018.

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 12,945 in 2009 to 11,046 in 2018. 

Structure fires are about 63% (2018) of the total fires with loss. 

The graph shows a total decline from 8,286 in 2009 to 7,000 in 2018.

Residential fires account for about 74% (2018) of structure loss fires.  These fires have also decreased from 5,914 in 2009 to 5,182 in 2018.

Overview of fires (with loss reported)

Loss fires by Property class

From 2009 to 2018, there were 113,111 fires with loss reported to the OFMEM. 

  • 47% of these fires occurred in Residential occupancies.
  • 27% occurred in vehicles.
  • 13% 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 2009 to 2018, there were 73,692 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 the structure loss fires were suspected to be arson or vandalism (intentionally set).

Between 2009 and 2018 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;
  • 4% appliances;
  • 4% other electrical, mechanical;
  • 4% Exposure fires;
  • 4% other open flame tools (excluding matches, lighters);
  • 2% lighting - excluding candles;
  • 2% candles;
  • 1% matches or lighters (excluding arson fires);
  • 1% processing equipment;
  • 19% 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 structure loss fires by ignition source during the 5 year period 2009 to 2013 with the 5 year period 2014 to 2018 shows that structure loss fires ignited by cooking equipment, heating/cooling, electrical wiring and appliances have declined.

  • Cooking 2014-2018 - average of 1,239 fires per year, a decline of 9%.
  • Electrical wiring, outlets, etc. 2014-2018 - average of 625 fires per year, a decline of 8%.
  • Heating, cooling 2014-2018 - average of 549 fires per year, a decline of 17%.
  • Cigarettes 2014-2018  - 519 fires per year, a decline of 2%.
  • Appliances 2014-2018 - 326 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 2009 to 2018 the number of structure loss fires ignited by cooking equipment have declined from 1,476 in 2009 to 1,128 in 2018, a decline of 24%. . 

Most of these fires occur in residential structures (in 2018 – 89%).

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.

74% (2018) 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 2009 to 2018 the number of fires identified as ignited by electrical equipment have declined from 726 in 2009 to 630 in 2018.

Injuries have varied over this period.

Fatalities range from 0 to 8 between 2009 and 2018.  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 747 fires reported in 2009 down to 560 in 2018, a decrease of 25%.  Home fires account for 76% (2018) of these fires.

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

Fatalities range from 0 to 4 between 2009 and 2018.  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.

Fires ignited by lit smoking materials have varied between 462 and 612 from 2009 to 2018.

In 2018, 91% of structure loss fires started by lit smoking materials occurred in the home. 

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

Similar to the number of fires, fire injuries and deaths between 2009 and 2018 have fluctuated.

Structure Loss Fires* Ignition source: Lit Smoking materials

Structure Loss Fires* Ignition source: Appliances

*Excluding Arson.

Fires ignited by appliances have varied between 301 and 368 from 2009 to 2018.

In 2018, 79% 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 31 (in 2014) to a low of 16 (in 2016).

There were 7 fatalities in 2013 and 1 fatality in 2018, all other years reported 0 fatalities.  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 2018, 94% of the candle fires occur in the home.

There is fluctuation in the numbers of injuries reported.

Fatalities range from 0 to 4 between 2009 and 2018.  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.

From 2009 to 2018 the number of structure loss fires ignited by matches/lighters (excluding arson) have declined from 98 in 2009 to 66 in 2018, a decline of 33%. . 

There is fluctuation in the numbers of injuries reported from 2009 and 2018 – from a high of 27 in 2015 to a low of 8 in 2018.

Fatalities range from 0 to 5 between 2009 and 2018.  Small numbers are easily impacted by only a few fire incidents, so trends may be difficult to identify.

Arson accounts for 67% (2018) of all the fires ignited by matches or lighters (not included in this chart).

Structure Loss Fires* Ignition source: Matches or lighters