Communiqué 2020-19: Amendments to O. Reg 263/20 (rules for areas in stage 2) and O. Reg 364/20 (rules for areas in stage 3)

October 22, 2020

I am providing an update on the renewal of orders under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 (ROA) as well as further amendments to the Stage 2 and Stage 3 orders.

Extension of Orders

The Ontario government has extended most orders currently in force under the ROA by 30 days (November 21, 2020) with the following exceptions:

Fire department training facilities

Effective October 19, 2020, amendments to O. Reg 263/20 (Rules for Areas in Stage 2) and O. Reg 364/20 (Rules for Areas in Stage 3) have been made to remove restrictions on in-person teaching and instruction for fire departments. These amendments now provide an exemption for “training facilities operated by a police force or fire department” and ensures that fire safety training is aligned with other public safety partners.

If you have any questions, please speak with your Fire Protection Adviser.

Communiqué 2020-18: Staffing levels and firefighter safety

October 6, 2020

The Office of the Fire Marshal (OFM) is aware of the Interest Arbitration decision involving the City of Greater Sudbury dated August 31, 2020i. In light of the discussions arising as a result of the decision, I have determined that it is appropriate to provide an interpretation of the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997 ("the Act")ii. These considerations are made in accordance with my Order in Council and fully based on the powers, duties, and responsibilities as set out in the Act. I provide the following information for municipal consideration, as applicable.

The intent of the Act is to establish minimum mandatory service levels with respect to public education and fire prevention, as well as to provide municipal council the authority to determine, based on community needs and circumstances, a desired level of fire protection services beyond the minimum requirements and including emergency response capabilities. As set out in legislation, a fire chief is the person who is ultimately responsible to their municipal council for the delivery of fire protection services. Municipal council sets or amends the fire protection service levels within their respective municipality. The establishment of fire protection service levels for emergency response within a municipality is the legislative responsibility and prerogative of municipal council, informed by the advice and guidance of the fire chief. The OFM has the authority to monitor, review and advise municipalities respecting the provision of fire protection services and to make recommendations to municipal councils for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of those services.

In 2018, Ontario enacted the Community Risk Assessment, a regulation under the Act (O. Reg 378/18)iii. A community risk assessment is a process of identifying, analyzing, evaluating and prioritizing risks to public safety to inform decisions about the provision of fire protection services. Municipalities set the level of service and delivery methods based on their needs and circumstances as informed by the community risk assessment, in consideration of the advice and guidance of the fire chief.

Fire departments are required to respond to numerous types of emergency calls, including (but not limited to), motor vehicle collisions, medical emergencies, rescue, hazardous materials and other technical operations and fire suppression. In terms of appropriate staffing levels on first arriving vehicles, consideration must be given to the following:

  • Standard Operating Guidelines/Procedures (SOG/Ps) must be in place and enforced to align with the fire protection services provided under the Establishing and Regulating By-law. These should address, among other things, the issue of firefighter safety.
  • Within the SOG/Ps, the discretion of trained and competent Incident Commanders must be empowered and supported to make on-scene decisions based on the specifics of the incident.
  • All firefighters must be trained to comply with the SOG/Ps and the direction of the Incident Commander.
  • An initial response, with four or more firefighters represents a self-sufficient unit able to perform a substantial number of tasks required at an emergency response without additional resources. Anything less than four firefighters typically requires staffing levels to be augmented to safely perform all required functions based on circumstances.
  • Deployment models of fewer than 4 staff members on an initial response apparatus is not necessarily a firefighter safety concern, however actions/capabilities and tasks they can perform will be limited. Local deployment models and procedures are required to establish adequate resources to safely provide fire protection services as set out by the municipal Establishing & Regulating By-law. Therefore, the simultaneous arrival of four firefighters on one apparatus is not required under the Act, regardless of full-time, volunteer or part-time.
  • In the case of fire suppression calls, initial crews of less than four firefighters should not attempt interior suppression or rescue operations except in very limited circumstances (such as a victim collapsed in close proximity to a window or exterior doorway, or where the fire is confined to a very small, readily accessible area).

While the council of each municipality is responsible for establishing their respective fire protection service levels, as the employer, they must ensure that employees (under the direction of the fire chief) are provided with SOG/Ps, equipment and training to safely carry out the mandated duties. Council decides if these services are to be delivered by volunteer, composite or full-time departments.

Therefore, in my opinion and considering all of the above factors, the decision to set, alter or adjust fire protection service levels in any municipality lies with the council of that municipality, in consideration of advice and guidance provided by the fire chief.

The OFM remains available to provide advice and assistance to municipal council and fire chiefs, through your local fire protection adviser.


Interest Arbitration - The City of Greater Sudbury and the Sudbury Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 527, International Association of Fire Fighters and Ontario Volunteer Firefighters Association, Christian Labour Association of Canada Local 92. Re: Val Therese Staffing Issue

ii Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997


1 (1) In this Act,

"fire chief" means a fire chief appointed under subsection 6 (1), (2) or (4); ("chef des pompiers") "fire department" means a group of firefighters authorized to provide fire protection services by a municipality, group of municipalities or by an agreement made under section 3; ("service d'incendie") "firefighter" means a fire chief and any other person employed in, or appointed to, a fire department and assigned to undertake fire protection services, and includes a volunteer firefighter; ("pompier") "Fire Marshal" means the Fire Marshal appointed under subsection 8 (1); ("commissaire des incendies") "fire protection services" includes,

(a) fire suppression, fire prevention and fire safety education,

(b) mitigation and prevention of the risk created by the presence of unsafe levels of carbon monoxide and safety education related to the presence of those levels,

(c) rescue and emergency services,

(d) communication in respect of anything described in clauses (a) to (c),

(e) training of persons involved in providing anything described in clauses (a) to (d), and (f) the delivery of any service described in clauses (a) to (e); ("services de protection contre les incendies")

Municipal responsibilities

2 (1) Every municipality shall,

(a) establish a program in the municipality which must include public education with respect to fire safety and certain components of fire prevention; and

(b) provide such other fire protection services as it determines may be necessary in accordance with its needs and circumstances.

Services to be provided

(3) In determining the form and content of the program that it must offer under clause (1) (a) and the other fire protection services that it may offer under clause (1) (b), a municipality may seek the advice of the Fire Marshal.

Fire chief, municipalities

6 (1) If a fire department is established for the whole or a part of a municipality or for more than one municipality, the council of the municipality or the councils of the municipalities, as the case may be, shall appoint a fire chief for the fire department.

Responsibility to council

(3) A fire chief is the person who is ultimately responsible to the council of a municipality that appointed him or her for the delivery of fire protection services.

Appointment of Fire Marshal

8 (1) There shall be a Fire Marshal who shall be appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council.

Powers of Fire Marshal

9 (1) The Fire Marshal has the power,

(a) to monitor, review and advise municipalities respecting the provision of fire protection services and to make recommendations to municipal councils for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of those services;

(c) to advise and assist ministries and agencies of government respecting fire protection services and related matters;

Duties of Fire Marshal

(2) It is the duty of the Fire Marshal,

(b) to advise municipalities in the interpretation and enforcement of this Act and the regulations;

iii O. Reg. 378/18 Community Risk Assessments

Communiqué 2020-17: Reconciliation agreement on construction codes

September 28, 2020

On August 27, 2020 Ontario signed the Reconciliation Agreement on Construction Codes under the Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA).

In taking this important step, Ontario is committed to further harmonizing the Ontario Building Code and Ontario Fire Code with the National Construction Codes. The harmonization of codes will help reduce barriers related to trade, product manufacturing, building design and maintenance.

The Agreement was jointly signed by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, with responsibility for Ontario’s Building Code, and the Solicitor General, with responsibility for Ontario’s Fire Code.

Key elements of the Agreement include:

  • Greater alignment of technical requirements in provincial / territorial codes with the National Construction Codes, meaning that over time Ontario’s Codes will be more harmonized with those in effect in other provinces and territories;
  • Timely and consistent adoption of Construction Codes across Canada so that the same rules are in place at the same time;
  • A transformed national code development system, including a new governance structure that will be more responsive to provinces and territories;
  • Access to free National Construction Codes across Canada (in digital format);
  • Development of an Implementation Plan that will provide details and direction on how the changes will be achieved.

Ontario’s Building Code and Fire Code establish fire, health, safety, accessibility and energy efficiency standards for buildings in the province. While signing the Agreement means that the technical content of Ontario’s Building and Fire Codes will begin to more closely reflect that of the National Construction Codes and codes across the country, Ontario will continue to maintain certain provisions in its Building Code and Fire Code that will differ from the National Construction Codes.

As we progress through this important initiative, Ontario will work closely with stakeholders to ensure safety remains a key priority in future changes to codes. For more information, please contact Technical Services at 647-329-1100 or

Communiqué 2020-14: COVID-19 emergency and vulnerable occupancies

June 25, 2020

On March 17, 2020, Ontario declared a state of emergency as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The provincial Declaration of Emergency enables the government to make and amend, as needed, emergency orders that protect the health and safety of all Ontarians. As such, orders made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, require the operation of businesses and the delivery of services to be in compliance with the advice, recommendations and instructions of public health officials.

Under Ontario Regulation 364/13, fire departments are required to observe fire drills and conduct fire safety inspections, as directed by the Fire Marshal, for every care occupancy, care and treatment occupancy and retirement home ("vulnerable occupancies") for which an annual fire drill is required by Sentence of Division B of the Fire Code. In addition, Fire Marshal Directive 2014-002 provides direction to Assistants to the Fire Marshal on fire drill scenario approvals, fire drill observations, and fire safety inspections required by the regulation. The requirements of O. Reg. 364/13 and Fire Marshal Directive 2014-002 have not been suspended and continue to be in effect.

It is recognized that during the current state of emergency and in future phases of reopening, there may be instances where standard procedures for observing fire drills and conducting fire safety inspections may not align with public health instructions. In these cases, fire departments are encouraged to exercise discretion and flexibility in supporting compliance efforts with both fire safety and public health. This may include re-scheduling fire drills and / or extending the timeline between observing a fire drill and conducting a fire safety inspection. Until such time as regular activities to comply with O. Reg. 364/13 and the associated directive can be safely and operationally resumed, fire departments may wish to consider undertaking a combination of interim measures to continue supporting fire safety in vulnerable occupancies. Some examples that may be combined and considered on a case-by-case basis include:

  • Remote options
    Technology provides many options for fire departments to coordinate with facility staff to observe activities remotely. This may be done through the use of cell phones, cameras, laptops, drones, or other devices. Observations that are conducted remotely may assist with assessing compliance and addressing deficiencies.
  • Records review
    A comprehensive review of records for fire safety systems, supervisory staff training, and fire safety procedures may be undertaken, along with detailed discussions with facility supervisory staff. Reviewing inspection, test, and maintenance records, combined with any further information provided by the facility owner or operator such as interviews with staff, photos, or video, may alleviate immediate fire safety concerns for the facility.
  • Table talk drills
    While not intended to replace approved fire drill procedures and scenarios under normal circumstances, the chief fire official may wish to consider the option of table talk drills during the state of emergency.
  • Training
    The Chief Fire Official may wish to review with the facility owner / operator the possible need for training of staff, including temporary staff, to ensure awareness of fire safety responsibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. This training may be used to highlight any measures that must be taken in a fire emergency, and any enhanced protocols due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Partial observations and inspections

    If access to certain portions of the facility does not present any conflict with public health guidance, partial observations and inspections should be conducted where possible.

Fire departments are encouraged to work together with owners and operators to ensure a continued level of fire safety for vulnerable occupancies. This includes the use of interim measures where standard procedures for observing annual fire drills and conducting fire safety inspections cannot be carried out in compliance with public health guidance. The Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management acknowledges that there are compliance challenges during these unprecedented times and will work to support fire departments in their efforts to ensure fire safety for vulnerable occupancies.

For assistance with evaluating options to address fire safety in vulnerable occupancies, please contact your local Field and Advisory Services adviser or the Field and Advisory Services general telephone number at 1-844-638-9560.

Communiqué 2020-13: Constable Joe Macdonald Public Safety Officers’ Survivors Scholarship Fund

June 18, 2019

The Constable Joe Macdonald Public Safety Officers’ Survivors Scholarship Fund (abbr>CJMPSOSSF) was established in 1997 to recognize the tremendous sacrifice made by our public safety officers and their families to keep Ontario safe. The scholarship is available to spouses and children of public safety officers killed in the line of duty.  The scholarship may be used for tuition, textbooks and eligible living expenses for programs leading to a degree or a diploma at an approved Canadian post-secondary educational institution. 

The purpose of the present communiqué is to inform you of the availability of the scholarship and to provide information on how to obtain an application form and application guidelines.  Please note that the due date for submission of applications is July 15, 2020.

For the purpose of the scholarship, “public safety officers” includes all firefighters (full-time, part-time and volunteer) as defined in subsection 1(1) of the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997.

Please forward information about the scholarship to the attention of the appropriate areas and/or persons for distribution.

All enquiries regarding the scholarship and the application process should be sent to Yoko Iwasaki by email at or by phone at 416-314-3085

Anyone who meets the criteria for this scholarship and wishes to obtain both the application guidelines and/or the application form (English or French) should also contact Yoko.

Additionally, written enquiries can also be sent to her attention at the address below:

Yoko Iwasaki, Community Safety Analyst
Program Development Section
External Relations Branch, Public Safety Division
Ministry of Solicitor General
25 Grosvenor Street, 12th floor
Toronto  ON  M7A 2H3

Lastly, grant funding is subject to the ministry receiving the necessary appropriation from the Ontario Legislature.

Communiqué 2020-12: COVID-19 testing for Ontario’s fire services

June 12, 2020

I am writing to advise you of additional information about COVID-19 testing provided by the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Ontario Health and the Ministry of Health (MOH) in support of the government’s continued focus on reducing the spread of COVID-19. This is in addition to the COVID-19 Testing Guidance from the Ministry of Health.

In addition to the updates on testing guidance, effective immediately, testing is available for the following populations:

Symptomatic testing:

  • All people with at least one symptom of COVID-19, even mild symptoms. Please see the “Guidance for All Populations” of the Testing Guidance Update for details about the symptoms.

Asymptomatic, risk-based testing:

  • People who are concerned that they have been exposed to COVID-19. This includes people who are contacts of or may have been exposed to a confirmed or suspected case.
  • People who are at risk of exposure to COVID-19 through their employment, including frontline and essential workers (e.g., health care workers, grocery store employees, food processing plants).

As the province continues to take an iterative approach to testing, expanded testing will provide valuable information about the spread of the virus in different communities across the province and help to protect vulnerable populations and all Ontarians.

No Ontarian who is symptomatic or who is concerned they have been exposed to COVID-19 will be declined a test at an Assessment Centre (either through appointment or walk-in, per the processes of each individual Assessment Centre).

Similarly, if any individual who is being tested does not have any symptoms or any known exposure to a person with COVID -19, they will not be required to self-isolate for 14 days. However, if an individual has any concerns about being in contact with a person with COVID -19, they should self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days regardless of their test result. If an individual begins to develop symptoms, they should self-isolate and contact their local public health unit for further advice.

This memorandum provides information on a multi-service testing initiative that fire services may coordinate locally. This is focused on asymptomatic individuals, including first responders, essential workers and their immediate families. An approach to testing should be locally led with support from Ontario Health who can assist with the distribution of test kits to your organization. Given the magnitude of this initiative and the need to coordinate this at the local level, fire chiefs should liaise with their local and/or regional Emergency Operations Centre, the fire coordinator, and their respective counterparts in both police and paramedic services to allow a multi-service proper coordinated approach be developed. This is something that should be coordinated locally given the unique circumstances of each municipality or unincorporated area. There may be opportunities for smaller municipalities to coordinate jointly so that testing can take place sooner if coordinated between a few neighbouring communities. This is a completely voluntary process.

If you are planning to undertake a coordinated multi-service testing initiative, municipalities should be able to confirm the following prior to reaching out to Ontario Health:

  • Who will serve as a central point of contact between Ontario Health and the municipality or unincorporated area to confirm logistics and ensure a proper report back mechanism is in place to communicate testing numbers?
  • What is/are the testing location(s) being proposed?
  • What are the proposed dates that testing would be made available?
    Please note that there is a limit to how many tests can be conducted daily at the provincial level, so coordination with Ontario Health will require that alternate dates be identified so that the demand on the system can be minimized. Ontario Health will determine testing dates based on the availability of test kits and site locations.
  • How many tests do you anticipate will be administered in total?
  • Who will administer the test (i.e., Emergency Medical Services; local Assessment Centre team; local hospital team)?

Once a plan has been developed, one person from the municipality should contact Jordan Ramsden from Ontario Health via email at to provide details of the testing plan. Please note that for planning purposes, municipalities will be asked to provide information about the number of tests anticipated to occur to Ontario Health. If testing will occur on more than one occasion, weekly updates of the additional anticipated testing numbers should be provided to Ontario Health over the duration of the testing plan.

Alternatively, for services that are unable to create plans with other sectors in their communities, requisitions for testing of individuals can be obtained by Ontario Health through the same contact listed above. There is opportunity for testing to be conducted for individuals at local assessment centres, where appropriate.

It should be noted that when a test is completed it represents that one point in time and may not accurately indicate that an individual does not have the virus (i.e. testing during incubation period) especially if the individual has been exposed to someone who is COVID-19 infected. Fire personnel and their families are encouraged to undergo as many tests as deemed necessary if they are concerned about any one of the following: a) they are showing symptoms or b) have been exposed to or are at risk of being exposed to COVID-19.

Ontario’s approach to testing will continue to evolve, based on evidence from Ontario and other jurisdictions and the public health indicators that are being monitoring closely.  We will continue to share this information with our fire service partners.

Thank you again for your continued efforts on the front lines responding to this pandemic.

Communiqué 2020-11: Modified Ontario Fire College calendar offerings and additional training considerations

June 5, 2020

This communique is in follow up to the memo issued by Assistant Deputy Fire Marshal Guy Degagné on May 29, 2020, which outlined a number of strategies for the resumption of training within the Ontario fire service.

The Office of the Fire Marshal has been monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak as it evolves and given the level of precautions that need to be taken to ensure the health and safety of staff and fire service members and on the physical distancing advice of public health officials, we have made the decision to further postpone all in-person classes at the Ontario Fire College (OFC) until further notice.

By way of background, paragraph 34(viii) of O. Reg. 82/20, made pursuant to the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, outlines that fire and emergency services, including the services that support their delivery, are deemed as an essential service. Furthermore, O. Reg. 52/20 (including social restrictions on gatherings of five or more persons) does not apply to those essential services that were not required to close as part of Ontario Regulation 82/20. Therefore, training within the fire service can continue and the OFC will support this through the Regional Training Centre’s (RTC). At the same time, fire departments can also undertake and continue their own training. In both situations, all reasonable precautions must be put in place to ensure the health and wellbeing of participants.

As of June 1st, the OFC has made a number of its course offerings available through the following modes of delivery:

  • Online – This allows training to continue and reduces the need to have rigorous safety precautions put in place as course offerings are fully digitized.
  • Learning Contracts – Allowing the fire service to have access to the OFC courseware, support of OFC instructors, OFC Registrar’s Office and Academic Standards and Evaluation certification examination. The course(s) will be delivered in-house. This will allow a fire department to have more control of the training initiatives while respecting current restrictions due to COVID-19. 
  • Blended Learning – The knowledge requisites portion will be delivered online and the skills portion of the course will be made available as soon as COVID-19 restrictions are eased to allow for an easier physical learning environment to be operationalized.

In addition, the OFC will work with its affiliated RTC partners to support the creation of a revised course calendar.  This includes supporting any training that was scheduled from June 1st onward, and also supporting any new training requests that may arise at the local level. In considering its own future opening strategy, the OFC has developed a mitigation plan in accordance with advice from public health officials to ensure a safe training environment can be implemented within the RTC framework.  This takes into consideration a number of factors including classroom sizes, practical training strategies and proper screening and monitoring.  Given the diversity of the RTC locations, this mitigation plan can be tailored accordingly to work with each centre so that training can resume as soon as feasible at each of these locations.

I would encourage fire chiefs to work to identify the training needs of their departments and to utilize the course offerings of the OFC and the RTCs. The OFC Registrar’s Office will distribute the modified OFC course offerings via email. If training is preferred in house, the OFC is available to share any of the guidance documents that we have consulted in developing our plans. Although there isn’t a one size fits all approach, there are some common elements that can be adopted across any number of departments.

If you have any questions, please contact the OFC registrar at

Communiqué 2020-10: First responders COVID-19 risk look-up tool web portal: protection of personal health information and appropriate use

April 27, 2020

Further to Communique 2020-06 and subsequent emails, I would like to provide you with important information on the contents of the First Responders COVID-19 Risk Look-Up Tool Web Portal (the portal), its appropriate use, and the urgent need to protect personal health information.

Contents of the portal

The portal now contains confirmed positive test results (beginning on April 1, 2020) for individuals who qualified for and have undergone a COVID-19 test. An individual who is included in the portal is never removed, even if they have subsequently recovered. 

Despite the information available in the portal, fire personnel should continue to conduct point of interaction risk assessments and take other appropriate precautions when interacting with members of the public.

Please note the following considerations regarding the information contained within the portal:

  • It may take up to four days for test results to become available;
  • The information in the portal is only updated once a day and does not reflect real-time testing information;
  • Individuals who have tested positive may no longer have COVID-19; 
  • An individual who is included in the portal is never removed;
  • Individuals’ addresses may be recorded inconsistently;
  • An address for a multi-unit building may have a positive case but not at the relevant unit; and
  • There may be individuals at an address who do not reside there.

The Ministry of the Solicitor General (ministry) continues to work to improve the portal including the quality of data available and will share further updates as available.

Use and disclosure of information

Over the course of the past few days, it has come to the attention of the Office of the Fire Marshal that some fire personnel have used or disclosed information in the portal in a manner that is not consistent with Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA) or subsequent. The EMCPA requires that information shared pursuant to O. Reg. 120/20 only be used to prevent, respond to, or alleviate the effects of the emergency. The EMCPA also requires that any information-sharing authorized under the emergency order occur in a manner that limits its intrusiveness.

The portal should not be used to obtain information about employees in the fire service for the purpose of managing the workforce (e.g., identifying whether an employee should remain at home or other employees who were in close contact should self-isolate). Information about employees’ COVID-19 status should be obtained directly from employees where appropriate. Given the limitations of the portal, including those described above, the portal is likely a less reliable tool for identifying individuals who are COVID-19 positive than the information employees themselves can provide.

The portal is only intended to be used to look up the COVID-19 status of individuals that members of the fire service will encounter or have encountered during the declared emergency as a result of responding to calls for service, for the sole purpose of supporting frontline fire personnel in making informed decisions about whether they need to take additional precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  

The portal must not be used to advise any individual about its contents for unauthorized purposes (e.g., disclosures to heads of council or public health units for informational purposes). For greater certainty, searches of the portal should not be conducted to ascertain the number of individuals in a municipality or region that appear on the portal and such information, if already obtained, should not be shared. In the ministry’s view, such use of the portal is not consistent with the requirements of the EMCPA. It is imperative that fire chiefs protect the sensitive personal health information in the portal.

Please note that if fire personnel misuse the portal or information from the portal, it could result in rights to the portal being revoked.  Furthermore, it would be up to individual fire chiefs to determine if additional disciplinary action should be taken against any fire service member who has their access revoked.  It is also a provincial offence for any person to willfully disclose personal information in contravention of the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) or Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).

Audit logging and accountability

The ministry has instituted an audit logging function that will track all user activity on the portal and may flag any queries that are deemed to be an inappropriate use of the portal (e.g., broad municipal-based searches).  Where such inappropriate use of the portal is confirmed, the ministry may revoke access to the portal for the user who violated the terms of service or the entire group of users affiliated with the fire service. 

Furthermore, the ministry may report suspected unauthorized portal access or use/disclosure of information from the portal to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario.  The ministry will, on request of a fire chief, provide a copy of an authorized user’s audit logs for the purpose of investigating unauthorized access, or use or disclosure of information, for the purpose of pursuing discipline.

Please note, the EMCPA provides that personal information subject to an emergency order is subject to any law with respect to the privacy and confidentiality of personal information when the declared emergency is terminated.

Please refer to subsection 7.0.2(7) of the EMCPA with respect to the rules that apply to the information subject to this emergency order. Also attached is a Question & Answer document with more information on the portal, for your reference.

If you have any other questions, please contact the COVID-19 Enforcement Support Line at 1-866-389-7638 or speak to your field and advisory services advisor.

Thank you for your continued assistance.

Communiqué 2020-09: Building Code and Fire Code exemptions for temporary health and residential facilities

April 14, 2020

On April 9, 2020 the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing filed Ontario Regulation 141/20, an Emergency Order made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act establishing that, for the purposes of expediting construction, temporary health and residential facilities that are being constructed or converted in response to the COVID-19 emergency, are exempt from compliance with the Building Code and building permit processes under the Building Code Act, 1992 as well as compliance with certain bylaws and approvals required under the Planning Act.

The Emergency Order is retroactive to March 17, 2020 and sets out the following requirements for these temporary facilities:

  • Any new facilities must be designed, and construction must be overseen by an architect and professional engineer;
  • The professional must submit designs and reports to the Chief Building Official, who must attest to their receipt;
  • The Chief Building Official must conduct inspections of a new or converted facility prior to occupation; and,
  • The Chief Building Official must conduct monthly inspections thereafter to determine continued safety.

As a result of this Emergency Order and to align with its requirements, Ontario Regulation 144/20 made under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997, was filed and came into force on April 11, 2020.  Under this regulation, these temporary health and residential facilities are exempt from the following Fire Code requirements:

  • Article requiring approvals from the local Chief Fire Official for undertaking activities in a building that are not allowed for in the original design;
  • Article requiring tents and air-supported structures to comply with the Building Code; and
  • Part 9 requiring retrofits for certain types of existing buildings, including health care facilities and residential occupancies.

To raise fire department awareness of changes occurring in the community, this regulation also requires that notice be provided to the Chief Fire Official prior to or as soon practicable after construction, conversion or use of a temporary health or residential facility begins.  This will provide fire departments with the opportunity to conduct pre-planning, and to assist building owners and operators with the implementation of fire safety plans.

Ontario Regulation 141/20 and Ontario Regulation 144/20 permit the temporary flexibility needed to expand Ontario’s capacity to meet the anticipated demand for health and residential facilities due to the COVID-19 emergency. 

Enquiries regarding Ontario Regulation 141/20 may be directed to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing at Building and Development Branch.Please email, or call 416-585-6666 and select option one (1) to leave a message. Staff will return your call within one (1) business day.

Enquiries regarding Ontario Regulation 144/20 may be directed to your local Field and Advisory Services Advisor or to the Field and Advisory Services general telephone number at 1-844-638-9560.

Communiqué 2020-08: Public health measures to manage the spread of COVID-19

April 14, 2020

I am writing to advise you that as part of the response to stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health of Ontarians, the government is implementing an enhanced suite of public health measures based on recommendations from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Based on these recommendations, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health will be:

  • Issuing new guidance on the use of cloth (non-medical) masks by members of the public where physical distancing is a challenge or not possible, and ensuring that the use of medical masks is reserved for health care workers, emergency responders (e.g., police, firefighters), and individuals who need to leave
  • their homes for essential reasons;

Note: Please reference current guidance on PPE for first responders including that N95 Respirators are to be used for aerosol generating medical procedures.

Beginning immediately, the Ministry of Health is implementing a new lab testing strategy to utilize testing capacity in the system, support further population testing and contain outbreaks. As part of this work, the Ministry of Health has updated the COVID-19 Provincial Testing Guidance (see attached COVID-19 Testing Guidance Update) to focus on vulnerable populations, health care workers, caregivers, and first responders, in particular:

  • All health care workers, caregivers and care providers, as well as first responders (e.g., police, firefighters), should be tested as soon as is feasible, if they develop any symptom compatible with COVID-19, including atypical symptoms.
  • All facilities conducting testing have also been advised that where there are shortages of testing supplies, symptomatic first responders including fire personnel are included in the group prioritized for testing within 24 hours.

    These guidelines are attached and can also be found on the Ministry of Health’s website.

We will continue to keep you apprised of actions taken in these key areas and work with you to ensure fire personnel have the tools to do their jobs.

If you have any questions, please reach out through your fire service adviser.

Communiqué 2020-07: Ontario Regulation 73/20 and review and appeal processes under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997

April 9, 2020

In response to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency declared on March 17, 2020, the Government of Ontario filed Ontario Regulation 73/20 under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA) on March 20, 2020.

O. Reg. 73/20, made pursuant to Subsection 7.1(2) of the EMCPA, is an Emergency Order that suspends the limitation periods of any provision of any statute, regulation, rule, by-law or order of the Government of Ontario for the duration of the emergency, retroactive to March 16, 2020. As such, this regulation temporarily changes timelines associated with the review and appeal processes established under Sections 25 and 26 of the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997 (FPPA) for orders made pursuant to Subsections 21(1) or (2). Changes made to these processes are summarized below.

Extended time to request a Fire Marshal Review

For orders made pursuant to Subsections 21(1) or (2) of the FPPA, the 15-day limitation period for making a request to the Fire Marshal for a review of the order under Section 25 is suspended and the time period for making a request is extended for the duration of the Emergency Order, including any renewal of the Emergency Order. For orders issued while O. Reg. 73/20 is in effect, fire services are required to provide notice of the extended time available to request a Fire Marshal review to persons issued orders.

Extended time to submit supporting information for a Fire Marshal Review

An extended 12-week time period is being provided for the submission of supporting information in the Fire Marshal review process while O. Reg. 73/20 remains in effect. Persons unable to meet this timeline will have the option to arrange for additional time.

Extended compliance date for Fire Marshal Review Decisions

For Fire Marshal Review decisions issued pursuant to Subsection 25(4) of the FPPA, the time period provided to comply with the decision will begin on the day following the date O. Reg. 73/20 is revoked.

Extended time for appeals to the Fire Safety Commission

The 15-day limitation period specified in Section 26 of the FPPA to appeal a Fire Marshal Review decision to the Fire Safety Commission is similarly suspended and the time period for making a request is extended for the duration of the Emergency Order, including any renewal of the Emergency Order. For further information, please refer to the Fire Safety Commission website.

For questions regarding how O. Reg. 73/20 may impact local procedures for issuing Inspection Orders, including requirements to provide notice regarding the extended time period available to request a Fire Marshal review, please consult with your municipal legal counsel. For questions regarding Fire Marshal Reviews, please contact Technical Services – OFMEM Reviews at

Communiqué 2020-06: Access to COVID-19 status information by specified persons

April 6, 2020

As part of the effort to support emergency frontline responders and contain the spread of COVID-19, the government has made an emergency order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act that would enable fire services to obtain COVID19 status information (positive status only) from specified custodians (i.e., medical officers of health and licensed laboratories). COVID-19 status information consists of name, address, date of birth, and whether the individual has had a positive test result.

Through this emergency order, the government recognizes that it is crucial that first responders have access to COVID-19 status information (positive status only) of individuals with whom they are coming into contact to help protect and reduce the potential spread of the virus to first responders and those that they come into contact within the community.

The emergency order will allow fire services to request this information and require specified custodians to provide it for the 14 days it is in effect (until April 17, 2020) or longer if the emergency order is renewed. The government will continue to assess the need for COVID-19 status information on an ongoing basis.

Please note this will be implemented through a centralized mechanism/application; therefore, outreach to licensed laboratories and Medical Officers of Health is not recommended.

Personal health information about the COVID-19 (positive) status of an individual must only be used to prevent, respond to or alleviate the effects of the COVID-19 emergency, such as ensuring appropriate measures are taken to protect fire personnel when responding to a call. It cannot be used for any other purpose. Consistent with the purpose of the emergency order, fire personnel may continue to confirm the COVID-19 (positive) status information of an individual they have interacted with after the interaction while this emergency order remains in effect. This information is subject to any relevant law with respect to privacy and confidentiality when the declared emergency is terminated including, as applicable, the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act or the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The confidentiality and protection of this personal health information is paramount.

This approach ensures consistency with other “premise warnings” issued by dispatch systems which also alert first responders to such things as mental health concerns and weapons.

Currently, through active screening protocols implemented during 911 calls by ambulance dispatchers, the COVID-19 status information is shared with first responders when applicable. The most recent dispatch call screening protocol is also provided for your reference.

Having access to COVID-19 (positive) status information is one precautionary measure. Fire services should also consider information about community spread of COVID-19, and risk assessments should happen for any contact with members of the public including on route to situations and on scene. Fire services should also adapt current practices to allow for physical distancing where possible and seek advice from their occupational health and safety/infection prevention and control experts on personal protective equipment based on provincial guidance. Please continue to exercise caution during interactions as there may be times when individuals who are positive for COVID-19 may not have been tested for the virus or may not be showing symptoms of COVID-19.

The Ministry of the Solicitor General is urgently working with the Ministry of Health on the operationalization of this emergency order through the development of an information portal. Once this mechanism/application becomes available, the Office of the Fire Marshal will communicate further details to all fire chiefs including centralizing access to COVID-19 status information through existing communication and dispatch services. As indicated earlier, outreach to licensed laboratories and Medical Officers of Health is not recommended.

I want to thank all fire services for their continued response to this pandemic. If you have any questions, please contact your fire service advisor.

Communiqué 2020-05: Fact sheet on use of expired N95 Masks

April 2, 2020

Further to Communique 2020-03, dated March 25, 2020, I am writing to share with you a fact sheet developed by the Ministry of Health for health care workers on the use of N95 masks beyond the manufacturer-designated shelf life (expired N95 masks), which may also be relevant to fire services. Based on the fact sheet, the Ministry of the Solicitor General is advising fire chiefs to not dispose of expired N95 masks as they may become useful during times of supply shortages.

Communiqué 2020-04: Mitigating risk to COVID-19

March 26, 2020

Fire services personnel should be commended for their continued response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The impact is being felt provincewide and I know that the response from fire services will vary across the province depending on individual and local circumstances. Communities are counting on fire services and your members are resilient in responding to these emergencies.

This communique is meant to be a starting point for all fire services to help mitigate the risk related to COVID-19. It is critical that we balance public health measures and the need to control the spread of the virus with appropriate flexibility to ensure that fire protection services continue to operate.

As a precaution, I would like to provide fire services with information as it relates to both organizational and operational considerations.

The response to this outbreak is fluid, however, the considerations below will support the management and mitigation of the spread of COVID-19 moving forward.

Organizational considerations

Fire services should continue to identify, review and confirm processes regarding:

  • Enhanced hygiene practices as outlined by the Ministry of Health;
  • Public engagements and public access to facilities;
  • Ensuring core services outlined in the municipal Establishing and Regulating Bylaw are evaluated and consideration for preservation of services provided;
  • Training of firefighters, including weekly general training for volunteer fire services where all staff attend at the same time, and external training services; and,
  • Ensuring appropriate Fire Chief and Chief Fire Official designations and delegations of authority are in place, if required.

Fire services should continue to review their business continuity plans to address issues such as:

  • Minimum staffing levels;
  • Alternative work arrangements;
  • Coordinating communication with local stakeholders and lead agencies (Ministry of Health, public health units, municipal and regional emergency management operations and departments);
  • Following the directives and recommended protocols of lead agencies including, but not limited to the Ministry of Health, around potential personnel exposure; and,
  • Administration of the fire department (human resources, financial/purchasing).

If a fire department determines that there are changes required to the delivery of core services, municipal council should be engaged and updated immediately. Current and updated information should be made available on community websites and all forms of communication in your municipality.

Operational considerations

Municipalities must deliver their core services in accordance with the municipal Establishing and Regulating Bylaw and applicable legislated requirements. Effective and efficient delivery of fire protection services and programs need to be continually reviewed to address changes and emerging circumstances. Operations should continue to encompass the three lines of defense and be delivered according to current risk.

In order to limit staff exposure to COVID-19, alternative service delivery models should be considered for all non-essential programs and events. The following practices may be considered upon review of current fire protection services:

Line 1 - Public education

  • Any in-person public education events should be postponed until further notice as directed by the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health.
  • Continue to provide online programs in accordance with the community’s needs and circumstances.
  • Provide fire and life safety resources for any emerging local risks.
  • Enhance social media campaigns on all platforms currently in use.
  • Provide access to fire and life safety resources electronically.

Line 2 - Fire safety standards and enforcement

  • Review inspection and fire drill requirements and reschedule as necessary within the authority of the Chief Fire Official.Due to COVID-19 related disruption:
    • Building owners/operators may experience difficulties in retaining service providers to meet some Fire Code obligations (e.g. maintenance of fire alarm systems, sprinkler systems, portable extinguishers, etc.)
    • Service providers may have difficulty accessing buildings or parts of buildings to carry out Fire Code requirements.
  • Fire safety continues to be of utmost importance, however, it is recognized that fire safety related activities that require entry into buildings (e.g. work of service providers, fire department inspections, etc.) must be balanced by steps needed to protect Ontarians against the further spread of COVID-19.
  • Fire Departments should consider on a case by case basis and per local municipal policies during COVID-19 restrictions:
    • To limit fire inspection activities that require entry into buildings to fire safety matters that involve serious risk to life safety, or, fire safety matters that the Fire Chief or their delegate have assessed and deemed to be necessary.
  • Fire inspection related entry into buildings should be undertaken in compliance with any COVID-19 safety protocols adopted by municipalities and in compliance with any additional protocols adopted in buildings where entry is required.

Line 3 - Emergency response

  • Review deployment models and staff allocation to emergency responses (e.g. medical, suspected false alarms, rescues) including fire protection agreements and mutual aid.
  • Inform Regional Fire Coordinator of impacts to local staffing levels.
  • Coordinate activities in conjunction with applicable municipal and provincial stakeholders and agencies including but not limited to Emergency Medical Services and Communications (dispatching).
  • Review personal protective equipment procedures and decontamination practices for attending incidents with patients exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Review tiered medical call response and work with EMS personnel to consider whether patient contact should be made by fire when EMS is already on site.

To contain the spread of COVID-19, the Government of Canada and Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health advises that you avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada. It is very important that all fire departments strongly consider the immediate cessation of all non-essential business travel outside of Canada. The Ministry of Health provides guidance to anyone that is returning from travel outside of Canada. Fire services personnel should consult their local public health unit and their manager/occupational health and safety department on all matters related to staff wellbeing during this pandemic.

In addition to the considerations outlined above, the Ministry of Health has asked the Office of the Fire Marshal to provide fire services with a link to the most current information being used by paramedic services. This information can be found by visiting the Emergency Health Services website.

I want to thank all fire services for their continued response to this pandemic. If you have any questions, please reach out through your fire service adviser.

Visit Ontario’s website to learn more about how the province continues to protect Ontarians from COVID-19.

Communiqué 2020-02: New forms for orders issued under the Fire Protection And Prevention Act, 1997

February 11, 2020

The Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management (OFMEM) is pleased to launch the following new forms for Orders issued under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997: Inspection Order, Order to Close, and Order to Pay Costs.

The forms include:

  • A new layout and use of plain language for improved accessibility and ease-of-use; and,
  • New instructions for owners and occupants on how to make a request to the Fire Marshal for a review of an Order and how to make an appeal to the Fire Safety Commission.

The new forms are available in Microsoft Word format. The format is a template that can be customized with details for each fire department and includes instructional text for each field to assist inspectors with completing the forms. The new forms comply with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 and are separately available in English and French.

The new forms continue to align with requirements under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997 for both content and service of an Order. Use of the forms will promote consistency when issuing Orders and for this reason fire departments are strongly encouraged to adopt the new forms at the earliest opportunity.

For convenience, the Microsoft Word templates are available online to members of the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs and to members of the Ontario Municipal Fire Prevention Officers Association. To access these templates, members will be required to log in to their Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs account or Ontario Municipal Fire Prevention Officers Association account. The templates are also available from the Ontario Fire College where they can be accessed through the pre-class portal.

The OFMEM extends its appreciation to the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs, the Ontario Municipal Fire Prevention Officers Association and to the Ontario Fire and Life Safety Educators for their support in the development of these new forms.

Enquiries regarding the new forms may be directed to your local Field and Advisory Services Advisor or to the Field and Advisory Services general telephone number at 1-844-638-9560.

Communiqué 2020-01: Provincial resources for urban search and rescue, chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive, and hazardous materials incidents

January 8, 2020

This communiqué supersedes Fire Marshal’s Communiqué 2016-05 issued January 18, 2016, and provides updated information for fire departments to request and access provincial resources for:

  • Large scale or complex natural or human caused incidents requiring Urban Search and Rescue (USAR). The primary purpose is to locate and extricate victims trapped in collapsed structures, provide immediate medical treatment to survivors, and conduct other life‐saving operations.
  • Large scale or complex Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, or Explosive (CBRNE) incidents, and incidents involving hazardous materials/dangerous goods.

Process to request and access the team(s)

Requests and access for provincial resources can be made by a fire department when the incident is beyond:

  • Their own capabilities;
  • Existing fire protection agreements; and,
  • The capabilities of the local county/district/region mutual aid system.

Please note, a municipality does not have to declare an emergency in order request and access the teams.

Fire departments must utilize the following process in order to request and access the Provincial Team(s):

  • The local fire department must contact their Mutual Aid Fire Co-ordinator to determine local response capabilities under Mutual Aid or other agreements.
  • Once the Fire Department and Fire Co-ordinator have determined that the incident requires provincial assistance, the Fire Co-ordinator will contact the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre (PEOC) and provide information about the emergency incident in accordance with the Fire Co-ordinator’s field guide.
  • The Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management (OFMEM) will:
  • Contact the Fire Co-ordinator to determine what assistance and resources are required.
  • Determine what level of provincial response is appropriate.
  • Initiate contact with the Provincial Team(s).
  • Provide an update to the Fire Co-ordinator. In addition to the teams, the OFMEM – Emergency Preparedness and Response Unit (EPRU) coordinates programming, provides specialized equipment and advice. When a team is deployed, EPRU provides on-scene support to teams and requesting fire departments.

For non-emergency information on the provincial resources regarding USAR, CBRNE and HazMat incidents, please contact the OFMEM at or by telephone at 647-329-1100 or 1-800-565-1842.

Appendix A

The Province of Ontario has memorandums of understanding/agreements with municipal fire departments across Ontario as follows:

Urban Search and Rescue Teams (Technical Level / Response Level)

  • Toronto (Heavy USAR Team)
  • Ottawa (Medium USAR Team)
  • Thunder Bay (Light USAR Team)
  • Windsor (Light USAR Team)

Hazardous Materials Response Teams- HMRT  (Technician Level)

  • Ottawa (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Toronto Explosive Teams)
  • Toronto (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Toronto Explosive Teams)
  • Windsor (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Toronto Explosive Teams)
  • North Bay (Hazardous Materials Teams)
  • Thunder Bay (Hazardous Materials Teams)
  • Peterborough (Hazardous Materials Teams)