Fire Marshal’s communiqués from 2021
Read the Fire Marshal’s communiqués from 2021 distributed to all Ontario fire departments to convey high priority fire safety information.
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Communiqué 2021-08: Use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer in schools
August 4, 2021
This communiqué replaces Fire Marshal’s Communiqué 2020-16, issued on September 10, 2020 which is now rescinded.
This communiqué updates the link to the Ministry of Education’s Guide to re-opening Ontario’s schools and expands on the first safe practice for the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer in schools.
The use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer has become a common method to combat the spread of viruses and is identified as a strategy for maintaining hand hygiene for staff and students in response to COVID-19 in the Guide to re-opening Ontario's schools. With the use of hand sanitizer becoming more widespread, compliance with Fire Code requirements and the adoption of safe practices are key to maintaining fire safety in schools.
Hand sanitizers contain various active ingredients and are typically categorized as either alcohol-based or non-alcohol-based products. Hand sanitizer products typically recommended in preventing the spread of COVID-19 are those with 60 per cent to 90 per cent alcohol. Due to their high concentration of alcohol, these products may be classified as flammable liquids, as defined in Article 22.214.171.124. of Division A of the Ontario Fire Code (Ontario Regulation 213/07, as amended). To determine classification of a hand sanitizer product, refer to the product (Material) Safety Data Sheet.
Where a hand sanitizer meets the classification of a flammable liquid, storage, handling and use in schools are subject to the requirements of Sections 4.1 and 4.2 of Division B of the Fire Code. Examples of provisions in Section 4.1 that may apply include ratings for portable fire extinguishers, control of ignition sources, spill control measures, ventilation requirements, and fire safety plan changes to address storage, use and dispensing of product. While Section 4.2 includes additional requirements such as maximum quantities and storage locations, a hand sanitizer as a pharmaceutical product may be exempt from many of these requirements when used and stored in small quantities. Fire departments are encouraged to work together with school administrators to consider implementing additional safe practices to further minimize fire risk in school settings. Some examples of safe practices for the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers in schools are included below.
For assistance with evaluating options to address fire safety, please contact your local fire protection adviser.
Safe practices for the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer in schools
Sources of ignition
Exercise caution when using hand sanitizer. Read and follow product warning labels. Avoid exposure to open flames and other heat sources. When using hand sanitizer, rub hands together until they are completely dry and exercise caution in areas where open flames or other sources of heat may be present. In a school setting, this includes hazardous classrooms such as science laboratories and shop classes. In these areas, consider alternate methods of hand washing. Hand sanitizer, containing a high concentration of alcohol, is flammable and may emit vapours that could ignite if exposed to an ignition source.
Maintain a minimum 1.2 metres horizontal centre to centre spacing between dispensers where more than one dispenser is provided, such as in a corridor.
Quantity in rooms and corridors
Ensure the capacity of individual dispensers in corridors and classrooms does not exceed 1.2 litres, with no more than one dispenser provided at each egress door or exit from a classroom.
Locate dispensers in areas that are supervised to reduce the risk of misuse. This may include locations such as the school entrance where the main office is located and classrooms where school staff are typically present to observe any misuse or spillage.
Ensure dispensers do not obstruct the required width of a means of egress.
Avoid installation of dispensers directly over carpeted surfaces except if the floor area is sprinklered or measures are taken to control accumulation of the product in the carpet.
Store excess stock of hand sanitizer in accordance with Fire Code requirements where applicable. As the quantities outlined in the Fire Code are not specific to hand sanitizer products, the presence of any other flammable and combustible liquids must also be taken into consideration when assessing total volume.
Test dispensers according to manufacturer’s instructions after each refill and limit the quantity of product dispensed upon activation to the required amount as specified by the manufacturer. Regularly check dispensers to ensure they are maintained in operating condition and are not activated accidentally or maliciously. Clean spilled/residual hand sanitizer product to prevent accumulation.
Fire safety plan
Review and update the school fire safety plan to conform with Fire Code requirements to reflect fire safety procedures that may be required as a result of the use and storage of hand sanitizer products. Depending on volume of product being stored, procedures may be required to address items such as the control of fire hazards and product spills.
Immediately dispose of empty hand sanitizer containers in a non-combustible receptacle and, on a daily basis, move waste to an outdoor receptacle to prevent accumulation.
For additional information, see OFM-TG-02-2011 Safe Practices for the Use of Alcohol-Based Hand Rub. Please contact AskOFMEM@ontario.ca or contact a Field Advisory Services adviser toll free at
Communiqué 2021-06: Responding to animals left in motor vehicles training e-module
July 8 2021
Ontario’s Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act, 2019 (PAWS Act) came into effect on January 1, 2020 and allows police, First Nations constables and provincial animal welfare inspectors to enter motor vehicles to remove animals in critical distress. In accordance with the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997 (FPPA), municipal councils set the levels of fire protection services which may include the rescue of animals in motor vehicles. The FPPA provides authority for firefighters to enter motor vehicles to rescue and remove animals in distress.
To support firefighters in exercising this rescue function, the Ministry of the Solicitor General has developed a new voluntary, training e-module for fire services on responding to animals left in motor vehicles. If prompted, users should log in as a guest.
The module includes information related to:
- The risks of an animal being left in a motor vehicle, and where the ministry directs the public to report these incidents;
- Authorities and protections under the FPPA related to rescuing animals left in motor vehicles;
- How to assess whether an animal in a motor vehicle is in distress, guidance on handling of the animal and immediate steps that can be taken to relieve the animal’s distress; and,
- Who to contact when an animal has been removed from a motor vehicle.
In addition to this Communiqué, a letter is being sent to municipal councils and a copy of this Communiqué is attached to that letter.
For further information, please contact your local Fire Protection Adviser.
Communiqué 2021-05: new platform for registry of vulnerable occupancies and standard incident report filing
June 17 2021
The Office of the Fire Marshal (OFM) is pleased to announce the launch of a new platform for accessing the online applications, Registry of Vulnerable Occupancies (RVO) and Standard Incident Reports (SIR).
Filing of information for RVO and SIR will now be made through two new applications that will be hosted on the “OFMEM One” site. This site is currently used by Community Emergency Management Coordinators to submit municipal compliance information. The SIR application is for utilization by those fire departments that do not have their own Records Management System (RMS). Those departments that have an established RMS system can continue to utilize their existing process.
Improvements have been made to both the RVO and SIR applications to optimize the user experience while retaining core functions such as the ability to generate reports and edit submissions. In accordance with Ontario Public Service standards and industry best practices, this new platform provides users with enhanced usability, accessibility, and security features.
The current RVO and SIR applications will be decommissioned on June 22, 2021 and replaced by the new platform which will be operational on June 24, 2021. Entries into the existing RVO and SIR applications may still be made up until June 21, 2021. All corresponding data and active records from the current applications will be moved to the new platform. Users will not be able to enter or edit records between June 22 and 24, 2021.
Registering all users for RVO and SIR applications
Single fire department accounts will no longer be available. Individual user accounts will need to be set up for anyone responsible for entering information on the new platform related to both the RVO or SIR.
To expedite the set-up of the new user accounts:
- Filing of RVO information: fire chiefs must send an email to PDA@ontario.ca with the names and unique email addresses of all staff who will be filing/reviewing RVO information on the new website.
- Filing of SIR: for those departments who do not already have an RMS, fire chiefs must send an email to OFMstatistics@ontario.ca with the names and unique email addresses of all staff who will be filing/reviewing SIR information on the new website.
Once received, individuals will be contacted by email with login instructions for the new platform after June 24, 2021. Please note that each email address will be assigned to one individual and cannot be registered under multiple names.
Enquiries regarding the RVO or the information to be filed should be directed to the Technical Services Section of the OFM at TechnicalServices@ontario.ca. Enquiries regarding the functionality of the RVO application should be directed to the OFM at PDA@ontario.ca.
Enquiries regarding Standard Incident Reporting or the SIR filing process should be directed to TechnicalServices@ontario.ca.
As a result of these new reporting applications being launched, Fire Marshal Directives 2014-001 “Registry of Vulnerable Occupancies” and 2015-001 “Standard Incident Report Filing” have been revised.
Prior to launching the new platform, the OFM worked with fire departments to pilot the applications. These departments were chosen in consultation with fire service partners. The pilot took place throughout January and included medium and large fire departments throughout the province. The OFM would like to thank these departments for their participation and feedback.
Communiqué 2021-04: Constable Joe Macdonald Public Safety Officers’ Survivors Scholarship Fund
May 28 2021
The Constable Joe Macdonald Public Safety Officers’ Survivors Scholarship Fund (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 June 28, 2021.
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.
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 the 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 2021-03: Ontario fire service considerations for standard operating guidelines/procedures
May 6, 2021
Findings from a fatal fire investigation conducted by the Office of the Fire Marshal (OFM) in October 2020 serve as an opportunity to provide the Ontario fire service with guidance on responding to fire alarm system activations in multi-unit residential buildings.
As part of this investigation, the OFM determined that in the middle of the night, the fire department responded to a fire alarm system activation in an apartment building. Throughout the response firefighters did not observe any signs of a fire incident on the floor or in the vicinity of where a system smoke detector had activated. Having located no visible signs of fire/smoke, smell of smoke, and not hearing any in-suite smoke alarms, the building’s fire alarm system was reset, and firefighters cleared the scene.
The next morning a third party discovered that a fire had occurred in one of the suites located on the same floor that firefighters had responded to; however, the fire had self-extinguished. Tragically the occupant of the suite was found deceased. The OFM determined that a smoke alarm located in the suite of fire origin was activated around the same time as the building’s fire alarm system.
Although this was an extremely rare incident, its outcome serves to remind us that an activated fire alarm system should be treated as an active fire until determined otherwise. Incident Commanders are trained and responsible for making on-scene decisions based on the specifics of the incident.
Standard operating guidelines/procedures (SOGs/SOPs) provide direction to fire service personnel for completing a task, using the knowledge and skills to perform specific operations, and to align municipalities with industry best practices.
Based on the OFM’s findings, fire services should consider including the following elements as part of their SOGs/SOPs when responding to an activated fire alarm system in a multi-unit residential building:
- Where applicable, Incident Commanders should engage with appointed supervisory staff to confirm if emergency procedures have been implemented and if instructions have been provided to building occupants as per the procedures within the building’s fire safety plan.
- After an initial assessment, and if there are no observable signs of smoke/fire, a fire alarm system should be silenced. Once the alarm system is silenced, fire crews should consider returning to the area where the original fire alarm activation occurred for a secondary assessment.
- A secondary assessment should include the following:
- Where applicable, review the building’s fire safety plan for specific references to building schematics, installation and location of emergency systems, presence of in-suite smoke alarms/carbon monoxide alarms, and other relevant information to the incident.
- Where feasible, go door to door on the affected floor and speak with residents. Consideration should also be given to monitoring the floor above and below where the alarm was activated for signs of smoke/fire. If possible, a building representative with a master key may be able to assist in gaining access to suites to enable a physical check of the suites for signs of smoke/fire.
- Listen for other audible signalling devices such as in-suite smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms that are not components of the fire alarm system. This could be accomplished by removing hearing protection when safe to do so or having a crew that has not been exposed to the initial noise of the fire alarm system conduct this work.
- Upon completion of a secondary assessment with no observable signs of smoke/fire, the fire alarm system can be reset.
For further information about response SOGs/SOPs, please contact your local Fire Protection Adviser.
Communiqué 2021-02: Ontario Fire College training modernization
March 4, 2021
This Fire Marshal’s Communiqué is issued as a follow up to the January 13, 2021 announcement regarding the decommissioning of the Ontario Fire College (OFC) and the modernization of fire safety training in Ontario.
This Communiqué provides an overview of OFC training modernization through several modes, including online and blended courses, Regional Training Centres (RTCs) and Learning Contracts.
A fire department’s training program should be designed to meet its set level of fire protection service, based on its needs and circumstances, and guided by the advice of the fire chief. A training program can include a combination of different OFC training modes as well as local in-house training.
While the decommissioning of the OFC campus in Gravenhurst is set for March 31, 2021, staff will continue to play a leading role in developing training courses. This will include curriculum design and development, registration services, online training development and maintenance, training development to build capacity in RTCs, and monitoring performance and quality assurance of programs at the local level.
As part of this plan, OFC instructors will be assigned regionally so that fire departments have a central point of contact for all training inquiries within their region. Instructors will work collaboratively to ensure the availability of training across Ontario.
Available options for OFC training are outlined below:
- Online and Blended Courses
- Learning Contracts
- Regional Training Centres (RTCs)
- Mobile Live Fire Training Units (MLFTUs)
Inquiries on any of the options available, or how to contact the instructor assigned to your region can be directed to Guy Degagne, Assistant Deputy Fire Marshal, Training and Certification (Guy.Degagne@ontario.ca).
1. Online and blended courses
Online courses are generally self-paced, which allows for greater flexibility in completing coursework.
Blended courses have a portion of the course online, combined with specific in-person training sessions. The purpose of blended learning is to focus in-person training to elements that cannot be taught online. Blended courses are offered through RTCs or Learning Contracts.
The following courses are available in either an online and/or blended format:
Course and delivery method
- Legislation (Online)
- NFPA 1521 (Online)
- NFPA 1031 - Level 1 (Online)
- NFPA 1035 – PIO (Online)
- NFPA 1035 - Level 1 (Online)
- NFPA 1021 - Level 1 (Online)
- NFPA 1021 - Level 2 (Blended)
- NFPA 1021 - Level 3 (Blended)
- NFPA 1021 - Level 4 (Blended)
- NFPA 1041 - Level 1 (Online/Blended)
- NFPA 1041 - Level 2 (Blended)
- Fire Code - Part 2 (Online)
- Fire Code - Part 6 (Online)
- Fire Code - Part 9 (Online)
- NFPA 1001 - Level 1 (Blended)
- NFPA 1001 - Level 2 (Blended)
- NFPA 1002 (Blended)
- NFPA 1006 - Ice/Water Rescue (Blended)
- NFPA 1033 - Fire Investigator (Blended)
The remaining National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) courses are scheduled to be upgraded to online and/or blended by the 2022-23 OFC calendar year. These include:
Course and delivery method
- NFPA 1031 - Level 1 (Online)
- Fire Code - Part 3 (Online)
- Fire Code - Part 4 (Online)
- Fire Code - Part 5 (Online)
- Courtroom Procedures (Online/Blended)
- NFPA 1072 Hazardous Materials Operations (Blended)
2. Learning contracts
Learning contracts provide access to OFC programs through in-house training that is affordable and scalable, and they are provided at the local fire department at their pace. Learning contracts are set up within one fire department, but there is an opportunity for smaller departments to share in the training.
The OFC supports learning contracts with full OFC course delivery including full registration in the OFC database; OFC course numbers; OFC course material; OFC assistance with arranging ASE testing; OFC support in case of Ministry of Labour investigations; and OFC certificates of completion for each student.
Course delivery costs $65 per student. Training can occur during working hours to reduce overtime costs and can be provided by fire departments’ training staff.
3. Regional training centres (RTCs)
RTCs are operated by municipalities, community colleges, or associations. They are strategically located across the province and provide access to training for career, composite, volunteer, Northern Fire Protection Program (NFPP), and First Nations fire departments.
RTCs are capable of delivering all NFPA programs, including certification testing, and courses meet professional qualification standards including classroom and outdoor fire ground training. It is important to note that course availability across Ontario will be based on a needs analysis that must support local fire departments and the RTC’s infrastructure and capacity to deliver.
A number of factors may result in cost savings or avoidance for fire departments that train at RTCs including mileage to and from the home location, costs to backfill fire department personnel, meal reimbursement, banked time and overtime costs.
The interest to open and operate a new RTC has grown significantly since the announcement in January. A map of current RTC locations is provided below, along with some additional locations being considered. Please note that potential locations are continually being updated and not all locations are reflected in the attached map.
4. Mobile live fire training units (MLFTUs)
The OFM has purchased two mobile live fire training units that will be available to fire departments across Ontario. In order to support training across the province, one unit will be deployed in northern Ontario and one in southern Ontario. However, this will be continually reviewed to assess where there is the greatest need.
The MLFTUs offer diverse options for live fire training to meet the unique needs of training including: a confined space rescue hatch; main level training rooms; different attack options; multi-prop fire simulators; and portable props.
The OFM will be deploying these units in 2021 and can have them delivered to any location. The MLFTUs will need to be booked in advance and will be available seasonally between May and October. Please contact the OFC Registrar at ApplyOFC@ontario.ca to reserve a unit.
Ontario Fire College - Geographic Coverage Areas
Andrew Blair – Eastern Ontario:
- Price Edward
- Lennox Addington
- Leeds and Grenville
- Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry
Robert King – Central Ontario:
- Kawartha Lakes
- Grey Bruce
Ken Benoit – Greater Toronto Area/Niagara:
Lyle Quan – Southwest Ontario:
Grant Love – Northeast Ontario:
- Parry Sound
- North Bay
Jamie Meyer – Rainbow/Algoma/Far Northeast:
- Algoma (Wawa and East and South of Wawa)
Jennifer Grigg – Northwest Ontario (Nipigon and East):
- Thunder Bay (Area East of Nipigon)
- Algoma (Wawa and West and North of Wawa)
Tim Beebe – Northwest Ontario (Nipigon and West):
- Rainy River
- Thunder Bay (Area West of Nipigon)
Communiqué 2021-01: Ontario Fire College
January 14, 2021
I am writing today to provide an update regarding the Ontario Fire College (OFC) and the delivery of fire safety training.
Training in Ontario is complex due to the large number of fire departments and differences in their composition and training needs. In 2012, the OFC started piloting alternative training delivery models to increase capacity. Training began at the regional level through Regional Training Centres (RTCs), through online course availability and through blended options and learning contracts which could be delivered at the local level. This modernized approach has increased capacity for training and provides a more affordable, attainable and accessible training program to your departments.
Since moving to a regionalized model, the Office of the Fire Marshal (OFM) has worked with partners to increase the number of RTCs across the province. With 20 operational as of today (and growing), training is much easier to obtain by not having to travel to Gravenhurst. The OFC has the capacity to train approximately 2,500 fire service personnel per year on campus. A significant number are unable to register for courses as they fill up quickly. With over 4,000 personnel trained off campus each year, the opportunity to train through other modes of delivery has really helped meet the needs of the fire service.
As the OFM continues to transition to a more modernized delivery model, the Ontario Fire College in Gravenhurst, which has not offered on-site training since the onset of COVID-19 in March 2020, will be closed. Once the decommissioning has been completed, the government will oversee upkeep of the 99-acre property and review future possibilities for the site.
Through open dialogue and discussion, we have listened to fire services about the need to increase capacity for training courses and modernize the fire training program. The shift to a blend of online and on-site training offered through RTCs allows us to provide responsive, high quality training to fire services across Ontario. The closure of the OFC Gravenhurst site will also allow us to provide supports to training needs through other mechanisms and support more localized training. As part of this plan, the OFM is purchasing two mobile live fire training units that can be accessed across the province to bring live fire training to your locations. Efforts will also be made to ensure that specialized equipment available at the OFC is made available to RTCs and other locations so that training can be specifically tailored to your department needs and hosted at a location that reduces the need to send personnel to Gravenhurst, thereby increasing other departmental costs.
These efforts to modernize fire safety in Ontario will better meet the needs of fire services across the province and although the closure of the Ontario Fire College Gravenhurst site does end a longstanding history of firefighter training, the OFM is excited at the opportunities to deliver a more modernized program that will continue to support the training needs of Ontario’s fire services.