OPH reports 52 new cases, OFS says COVID to blame in increase in fire deaths

OTTAWA – Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is reporting 52 new COVID-19 cases and one more death related to the coronavirus.

OPH has recorded 388 deaths due to the novel coronavirus this year.

Of the 15 retirement and long-term care homes dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks as of today (Dec. 17), five of them have reported at least one resident death because of the virus.

One staff member at Glebe Centre long-term care has tested positive for COVID-19. It’s the only new institutional outbreak reported today. Four schools remain on OPH’s outbreak dashboard, while the public health unit continues to monitor community transmission linked to three workplaces.

OPH says there are 379 active cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa. There are 23 local people in hospital with the virus – one of those patients is in intensive care.

There have been 9,211 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the capital since March, of which 8,444 have been resolved.

Of Ottawa residents who have been tested for the virus, the city’s most recently reported positivity rate is down to 1.3 per cent.

Ontario is reporting a single-day record of 2,432 new cases of COVID-19 today, and 23 new deaths due to the virus.

Fatal fires are up four times the typical amount in Ottawa for a calendar year the Ottawa Fire Services (OFS) reports believing the pandemic may be the reason why.

Firefighters have responded to 12 fires in Ottawa through 2020 where someone was either found deceased or died in hospital afterward. 

OFS public information officer Carson Tharris says there has only been three each year for the previous three years, but explains, people are spending a lot more time at home this year.

“Our homes have always had fire risks, whether it’s cooking in the home, people smoking in the home, or our electrical devices that we have throughout the home – those fire risks have always been there,” Tharris released in a statement yesterday (Dec. 16).

Typically, residents are spending large parts of their week inside commercial buildings which have protections like sprinkler systems and fire alarms that are professionally maintained. It’s now up to those residents to make sure their homes meet similar standards by checking alarms once a month, making sure batteries are changed at least once a year.

Tharris says homeowners should have a fire drill mapped out as well.

“Especially if you’re home with people with mobility challenges, or if you’re home with children – making sure you’re taking that time to plan two ways out, throughout your home, and that you’re practicing that evacuation,” he said.

Clearing any exits of snow in the winter is also good to keep in mind, says Tharris, as well as making sure your home’s furnace vents are clear to the outside.

The public information officer adds many homes are filled with synthetic furniture and plastic products these days, so fire spreads quickly and fills homes with toxic smoke.

During the holiday season and winter, OFS is reminding residents not to overloading electrical outlets and use battery operated candles when possible, unplug space heaters when not in use and make sure gas fireplaces are serviced each year.