Ontario firefighters urge caution at home amid uptick in fire deaths

A fire in Richmond Hill, Ont. on July 26, 2020 is seen. (Twitter / @sandorzs)

Ontario’s professional firefighters association is sounding an alarm over an uptick in fire-related deaths as people spend more time at home.

According to the Ontario Professional Firefighters Association (OPFFA), there’s been a sharp increase in fire fatalities across the province so far in 2020.

In a statement released Friday, the association attributed the uptick to the fact that people are spending more time than ever at home and cooking more often rather than dining out because of COVID-19 restrictions.

“At this rate, Ontario is on track for approximately 116 fire deaths in 2020 which would be the highest in over a decade, by far,” OPFFA President Carmen Santoro said in a news release. “There have already been 68 fire fatalities in Ontario this year, an average of almost 10 per month.”

The average number of annual fire fatalities in the 10-year period from 2009 to 2018 was just under 85, according to the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal.

“Firefighters would like to see Ontarians work together to be fire safe and to turn around the tragic trend we have seen so far this year,” Santoro said. “Firefighters are ready to respond when fires occur, but the safest and best scenario is always when a fire can be prevented in the first place.”

He pointed to recent fires in Richmond Hill and Stoney Creek as examples of the type of large, dangerous fires that firefighters want to avoid.

Santoro said that fires tend to burn hotter in today’s homes than they did 50 years ago because of the types of material that are used and said that fire resources have not kept pace with booming growth in some communities.

In a separate statement issued ahead of the long weekend Friday, Central York Fire Services reminded residents in Newmarket and Aurora that that fireworks are not permitted over the civic holiday.

The fire department also implored people to follow proper fire safety precautions if enjoying backyard fires or barbecues.

The OPFFA is advising people to follow a number of tips to avoid out-of-control fires:

  • Ensure smoking materials are properly extinguished
  • Ensure all cooking activities are adequately supervised
  • Keep matches and lighters out of reach of children
  • Make sure electrical appliances are in good repair and electrical outlets are not overloaded
  • Be cautious when using candles, insect repellent devices and other flame sources
  • Ensure BBQs, fire pits and other outdoor appliances are in well-ventilated areas and adequately distanced from your home or any other combustible surface.