October 4 marks the start of National Fire Prevention Week in Canada.

This year’s theme is serving up fire safety in the kitchen.

According to Deputy Fire Chief of Fire Prevention, Matt Hepditch, fires are most likely to start in the kitchen.

“We’re getting more and more calls, the percentage of home fires occurring in the kitchen from cooking has gone up significantly throughout the province of Ontario and London,” says Hepditch.

With more people working and staying at home due to COVID-19, the amount of residential fires in Canada grows with it. “We still have significant loss in our community with property damage and loss of life, we have to be very careful in these times when people are at home.”

According to Allstate Canada, who partnered with The Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC), there's been a 62 per cent increase of cooking or smoking related fire claims compared to last year, says Gene Myles, agency manager, Allstate in Sudbury.

Myles says that across Canada at the beginning stages of the pandemic, Allstate reported a 333 per cent increase in residential fires related to cooking or smoking between March and May 2020. The big reason for this is the increased amount of people cooking from home.

“With more people at home, they’re cooking more. We have to make sure people are staying in the kitchen while they are cooking. If they have to leave, they should take an oven mitt or a spoon with them to remind them that they have something on the stove,” says Hepditch.

Hepditch says most fires can be “just a pot on the stove,” but that can lead to more significant fires within the home.

Hepditch reminds people to keep combustibles away from the stove and to always make sure to have a large lid close by to help smother potential fires.

When it comes to fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, it is important to check the back of the devices for their expiration dates. Smoke alarms should be replaced every ten years, they should be tested at least once a month and batteries changed once a year.

According to Allstate, from 2009-2018, more than one third of Ontario’s fatal residential fires either had either no working smoke alarms, or no alarms at all. Expiration date ranges from seven to ten years.

Those who smoke are also encouraged to smoke outdoors.