Ministry of the
Solicitor General

Fatal Fires: Summary

Ontario Fatal Fires: 10 years

The information in this report is for Ontario Fatal fires during the ten year period from 2009 to 2018

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

Revised: Feb. 2020

Ontario Fire Fatalities

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

In 2009, there were 97 fire fatalities.
In 2018, there were 91 fire fatalities.

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

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

Ontario Fire Fatalities

Fire Death Rate in Ontario: All Fatalities

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

In 2009 there were 97 fire deaths, the population was 13.1 million, the fire death rate was 7.4

In 2018 there were 91 fire deaths, the population was 14.4 million, the fire death rate was 6.3

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.

Population Source: Statistics Canada

Fire Death Rate in Ontario: All Fatalities

Fire Death Rate in Ontario: Structure Fires

The majority of the fire deaths occur in structures.

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

In 2009 there were 83 fire deaths in structures, the population was 13.1 million, the fire death rate was 6.3

In 2018 there were 81 fire deaths in structures, the population was 14.4 million, the fire death rate was 5.6

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.

Population Source: Statistics Canada

Fire Death Rate in Ontario: Structure Fires

Ontario Fatal Fires

The number of fatal fires in Ontario was 85 in 2009 and 81 in 2018.

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

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

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 2009 to 2018, 10 year average number of fatal fires per month were:

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

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.

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. 

42% of fatal fires occurred between 10 pm and 6:59 am (2009 to 2018).

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.

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 20% of the fatal fires were Intentional (Arson, homicide, suicide), 53% were Unintentional/Preventable, 27% Undetermined (the evidence was destroyed or inconclusive).  Less than 1% of fires were under investigation at the time of this report.

Unintentional/Preventable Fires include:

  • Misuse of Ignition Source or material first ignited 44.2%
  • Electrical/mechanical failure 2.7%
  • Children playing  <1% (less than 1%)
  • Design/construction/maintenance deficiency 1.7%
  • Other unintentional 4.7%

Fatal Fires: Cause class

Fatal Fires: Property Class

85% of fatal fires occurred in Residential properties. 

Vehicle fire deaths (4%) 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). 

8% occurred either outdoors or in structures not classified by the building code (e.g. shed, barn) - the majority of “Not classified by Ontario Building code” are outdoor fires.

1% occurred in Industrial properties, 2% in Detention and Care.
 

The majority of unintentional/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.

Fatal Fires: Property Class

Fire Death Rate in Ontario: Residential Structure Fires

The majority of the structure fire deaths occur in residential structures.

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

In 2009 there were 76 fire deaths in residential structures, the population was 13.1 million, the fire death rate was 5.8.

In 2018 there were 78 fire deaths in residential structures, the population was 14.4 million, the fire death rate was 5.4.
 

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.

Population Source: Statistics Canada

Fire Death Rate in Ontario: Residential Structure Fires

Residential Fatal Fires: Ignition Source
The ignition sources in 10 years of fatal residential fires (632 fires) were determined by OFMEM investigations.

  • Fires where the Ignition source is Unknown (Undetermined, Unintentional Undetermined, not reported or under investigation) 28% (175 fatal fires).
  • Lit Smokers’ materials (cigarettes, pipes) is the ignition source that is involved in the most fatal fires at 27% (173 fatal fires).
  • Arson which includes homicide and suicide was the cause in 14% of fatal fires (89 fatal fires).
  • Cooking equipment is at 11% (68 fatal fires).
  • Matches and Lighters 3% (21 fatal fires).
  • Electrical wiring 3% (19fatal fires).
  • Candles 2% (13 fatal fires).
  • Heating, including furnaces and fireplaces 2% (11 fatal fires).

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 2009 to 2013 with the 5 year period 2014 to 2018 shows that fire fatalities in fires ignited by cigarettes have increased.

Cigarettes 2009-2013,  average of 17 fire fatalities per year.
Cigarettes 2014-2018,  average of 20 fire fatalities per year.

Cooking 2014-2018, 6 fire fatalities per year.

Matches and Lighters 2014-2018, 2 fire fatalities per year.

Electrical wiring 2014-2018, 4 fire fatalities per year.

Heating 2014-2018, 1 fire fatality per year.

Candles 2014-2018, 2 fire fatalities per year.

Residential Fatal Fires: Ignition Source

Residential Fire fatalities: By age group

From 2009 to 2018:

  • 3% (19) of the fire fatalities were under 10 years old;
  • 4% (33) were 10 to 19;
  • 5% (36) were 20 to 29 ;
  • 9% (64) were 30 to 39;
  • 12% (87) were 40 to 49;
  • 19% (135) were 50 to 59;
  • 17% (124) were 60 to 69;
  • 17% (123) were 70 to 79;
  • 14 % (98) were 80+.

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

Residential Fire fatalities: By age group

Smoke Alarm Operation: Fatal Residential fires *

* Arson fires not included

Fire investigations provided information on smoke alarm operation in 75% of preventable fatal residential fires – in 20% the presence of a smoke alarm could not be determined, 5% were still under investigation.

In 36% of preventable residential fires where there was a fatality there was no smoke alarm warning:  14% there was no smoke alarm, and in 22% the smoke alarm did not operate (3% of alarms had a dead battery, 7% had no battery, 4% were beyond the smoke area, 8% other reason for non operation).

In 32% of these fatal fires there was a smoke alarm that operated.

In 7% of these fatal fires the operation of the smoke alarm could not be determined.
 

Note:  Residential property types “Detached garage” and “Tent” are excluded from these fatal fires.

Smoke Alarm Operation: Fatal Residential fires