Despite campaigns centered around the importance of working smoke alarms and developing fire escape plans, Ontario’s fire marshall is characterizing the end of 2022 as “tough, tragic and upsetting” for his office.
After revealing a “troubling” 133 fire-related deaths for the province in 2022, Jon Pegg said he wondered in each instance whether a working smoke alarm or an escape plan could have saved lives.
“That is the highest total in more than 20 years in Ontario,” Pegg said.
“Additionally, statistics show that one in three fire deaths occurred during the months of November, December and January, and that’s a very high percentage of fire fatalities happening.”
Ontario’s Office of the Fire Marshal (OFM) says fatalities have fluctuated between 72 and 104 deaths per year between 2010 and 2018.
There were 124 deaths in 2021, 115 in 2020 and 72 fire deaths in 2019.
Read more: Blaze that killed four in Hamilton started in couch of home without working smoke detectors: OFM
Pegg says research shows most Ontarians incorrectly believe they have more than five minutes to escape a blaze when in actuality studies suggest it’s actually 60 seconds or less.
“Once the smoke alarm sounds, the second critical component to surviving a house fire is a well thought out and practiced home escape plan,” Pegg explained.
“This plan kicks in when the smoke alarm sounds … not when your house is filled with smoke.”
The OFM numbers came during an update of a late December fatal blaze in a Hamilton townhouse that left four dead, including two children.
Investigators say that fire started in a couch on the main floor and smoke alarms at the home were not working.
Hamilton chief Dave Cunliffe said its fire prevention division is looking through evidence with Hamilton police and the city’s legal team to see if any potential charges may be warranted.
Under the Ontario Fire Code, owners of structures are responsible for fire safety systems, including working smoke alarms and seal alarms.
“We need people to understand that it only takes a few minutes for a fire just started and then a tragedy to take place,” Cunliffe said.
Pegg urged Ontarians to regularly take a few seconds to test their smoke alarms. Assistance is as close as a call to a local fire department.
“Let’s get active, make sure people have working smoke alarms … we want to see these numbers come way, way down from where they are,” Pegg said.