Fire Losses: Causes, Trends, Issues
Fire Loss in Ontario 2012–2016
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 2012 to 2016.
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 2012 to 2016 the number of total calls reported – fire and non fire calls has increased from 462,542 incidents reported in 2012 to 494,811 in 2016.
Loss fires are defined as any fire with an injury, fatality or dollar loss reported.
All Loss fires reported have declined from 11,294 in 2012 to 10,844 in 2016.
Structure fires are about 66% (2016) of the total fires with loss.
The graph shows a total decline from 7,496 in 2012 to 7,169 in 2016.
Residential fires account for about 73% (2016) of structure fire losses. These fires have also decreased from 5,440 in 2012 to 5,243 in 2016.
Loss fires by Property class
From 2012 to 2016, there were 54,457 fires with loss reported to the OFMEM.
- 49% of these fires occurred in Residential occupancies.
- 26% 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 Property class: Structures only
From 2012 to 2016, there were 36,159 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.
Structure Loss Fires: Ignition source
8% of structure loss fires were suspected to be arson or vandalism (2012-2016).
Between 2012 and 2016 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), 4% 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, 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 2007 to 2011 with the 5 year period 2012 to 2016 shows that structure fires ignited by cooking equipment, heating/cooling, electrical wiring and appliances have declined.
- Cooking 2012-2016 - average of 1,281 fires per year, a decline of 9%.
- Electrical wiring, outlets, etc. 2012-2016 - average of 636 fires per year, a decline of 14%.
- Heating, cooling 2012-2016 - average of 583 fires per year, a decline of 20%.
- Cigarettes 2012-2016 - 532 fires per year, a decline of 3%.
- Appliances 2012-2016 - 329 fire per year, a decline of 10%.
Structure Loss Fires* Ignition source: Cooking Equipment
From 2012 to 2016 the number of structure fires ignited by cooking equipment have varied – from a high of 1328 fires in 2014 to a low of 1248 in 2015.
Most of these fires occur in residential structures (in 2016 – 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: Electrical distribution equipment
70% (2016) 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 2012 to 2016 the number of fires identified as ignited by electrical equipment range from a high of 663 in 2014 to a low of 601 in 2016.
The number of injuries shows no trend, ranging from a high of 56 in 2015 to a low of 34 in 2012.
Fatalities range from 6 in 2014 to 1 in 2016. 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: Heating equipment
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 580 fires reported in 2012 down to 528 in 2016, a decrease of 9%. Home fires account for 77% (2016) 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 2012 and 2016. Small numbers are easily impacted by only a few fire incidents, so trends cannot be identified.
Structure Loss Fires* Ignition source: Lit Smoking materials
(cigarettes, cigars, pipes, excluding matches or lighters)
In 2016, 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.
Between 2012 and 2016 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: Appliances
Fires ignited by appliances have varied from 368 in 2014 to 303 in 2016.
In 2016, 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 30 to a low of 16. No trend is evident.
There were zero fatalities for each year between 2012 and 2016, 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: Candles
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 109 in 2016.
In 2016, 94% 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: Matches or lighters
Arson accounts for 67% (2016) 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 18% decrease from a high of 72 fires in 2012 to 59 in 2016.
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.