Ottawa fire fatalities hit 20-year high

OTTAWA – The Ottawa Fire Service (OFS) is reminding residents to be aware of the ever-present danger of fire as fatalities in the city reach a 20-year high.

“The threat of fire is real, let’s work together to keep our homes and our loved ones safe this year,” OFS public information officer Carson Tharris released in a statement today (Dec. 8).

Since Jan. 1, nine residents have tragically died in fires in the City of Ottawa. Over the past 20 years since amalgamation, the OFS has seen an average of four fatalities per year.

“This year being over double the average is a tragic reminder of the importance of home fire safety and how quickly tragedy can strike,” Tharris said. “As we head into the holidays and winter months, the OFS urges residents to be vigilant in preventing fires in your home. Fire safety planning and early detection through smoke alarms are your best defenses.”

There are simple things that you can do to prevent a fire from happening in your home and ensure that everyone knows what to do if a fire starts.

Reduce fire risks in your home:
  • Always stay in the kitchen when you are cooking. Unattended cooking is a leading cause of home fires. It is easy to get distracted while cooking, set a timer to remind you to check on your meal.
  • Keep a close eye on anyone drinking alcohol and attempting to cook or smoke.
  • Encourage smokers to smoke outside the home and outside the garage. Thoroughly extinguish all smoking materials in water or sand.
  • If someone is smoking indoors ensure a smoke alarm is installed in the area you smoke.
  • Use battery operated candles whenever possible, always blow out candles before leaving the room.
  • Avoid overloading electrical outlets. Extension cords should be used only as a temporary connection. Avoid running electrical cords under rugs, which can damage the cords and cause a fire.
  • Ensure items that can burn are at least one metre away from space heaters.
  • Chimneys and heating systems should be cleaned and maintained annually.
  • Make sure your alarms work. Test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms monthly by pressing the test button. Only working alarms can give you the early warning you need to safely escape a fire in your home.
Practice your home fire escape plan:
  • Ensure everyone knows two ways out of each room, if possible. 
  • All exits must be unobstructed and easy to use. 
  • Determine who will be responsible for helping young children, older adults and anyone who needs assistance to escape.
  • Choose a meeting place outside, such as a tree or a lamp post, where everyone can be accounted for. 
  • Call the fire department from outside the home, from a cell phone or a neighbour’s home.
  • Once out, stay out. Never re-enter a burning building.
  • If you live in an apartment or high-rise building talk to the building superintendent to learn about the emergency procedures outlined in the building’s fire safety plan.