Fire Losses: Causes, Trends, 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 2010 to 2019.
*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 2010 to 2019 the number of total calls reported – fire and non fire calls has increased from 482,617 incidents reported in 2010 to 534,313 in 2019.
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 12,850 in 2010 to 10,645 in 2019.
Structure fires are about 63% (2019) of the total fires with loss.
The graph shows a total decline from 8,037 in 2010 to 6,698 in 2019.
Residential fires account for about 73% (2019) of structure loss fires. These fires have also decreased from 5,834 in 2010 to 4,863 in 2019.
From 2010 to 2019, there were 110,811 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.
From 2010 to 2019, there were 72,104 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.
9% of the structure loss fires were suspected to be arson or vandalism (intentionally set).
Between 2010 and 2019 the ignition sources in other (not intentionally set) structure loss fires were:
- 17% 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;
- 4% Exposure fires;
- 3% other open flame tools (excluding matches, lighters);
- 2% lighting - excluding candles;
- 2% candles;
- 1% matches or lighters (excluding arson fires);
- 1% processing equipment;
- 20% reported as undetermined.
*Excluding Arson fires and ignition source undetermined.
Comparing the average number of structure loss fires by ignition source during the 5 year period 2010 to 2014 with the 5 year period 2015 to 2019 shows that structure loss fires ignited by cooking equipment, heating/cooling, electrical wiring and appliances have declined.
- Cooking 2015-2019 - average of 1,194 fires per year, a decline of 10%.
- Electrical wiring, outlets, etc. 2015-2019 - average of 614 fires per year, a decline of 8%.
- Heating, cooling 2015-2019 - average of 536 fires per year, a decline of 16%.
- Cigarettes 2015-2019 - 524 fires per year, an increase of 2%.
- Appliances 2015-2019 - 318 fire per year, a decline of 7%.
From 2010 to 2019 the number of structure loss fires ignited by cooking equipment have declined from 1,465 in 2010 to 1,107 in 2019, a decline of 24%. .
Most of these fires occur in residential structures (in 2019 – 87%).
Injuries have varied over this period.
With small numbers of fatalities, a single fire resulting in multiple deaths make trends difficult to discern.
69% (2019) 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 2010 to 2019 the number of fires identified as ignited by electrical equipment have declined from 703 in 2010 to 611 in 2019.
Injuries have varied over this period.
Fatalities range from 0 to 8 between 2010 and 2019. 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.
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 700 fires reported in 2010 down to 546 in 2019, a decrease of 22%. Home fires account for 77% (2019) 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 2010 and 2019. Small numbers are easily impacted by only a few fire incidents, so trends may be difficult to identify.
Structure Loss Fires* Ignition source: Lit Smoking materials
(cigarettes, cigars, pipes, excluding matches or lighters)
Fires ignited by lit smoking materials have varied between 462 and 612 from 2010 to 2019.
In 2019, 89% 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 2010 and 2019 have fluctuated.
Fires ignited by appliances have varied between 301 and 368 from 2010 to 2019.
In 2019, 86% 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.
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 2019, 93% of the candle fires occur in the home.
There is fluctuation in the numbers of injuries reported.
Fatalities range from 0 to 4 between 2010 and 2019. 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).
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 2010 to 2019 the number of structure loss fires ignited by matches/lighters (excluding arson) have declined from 100 in 2010 to 74 in 2019.
There is fluctuation in the numbers of injuries reported from 2010 and 2019 – from a high of 27 in 2015 to a low of 5 in 2019.
Fatalities range from 0 to 5 between 2010 and 2019. Small numbers are easily impacted by only a few fire incidents, so trends may be difficult to identify.
Arson accounts for 60% (2019) of all the fires ignited by matches or lighters (not included in this chart).