The Office of the Fire Marshal
Learn about the role of the Office of the Fire Marshal and how it supports fire protection and prevention in Ontario.
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The Office of the Fire Marshal (OFM) provides leadership and expertise on fire safety, and promotes changes to minimize the impact of fire and other public safety hazards on people, property and the environment in Ontario.
The OFM is responsible for administering the following provincial legislation that promotes fire protection, fire prevention and public safety in Ontario:
- the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997 (FPPA)
- the Fire Code, a regulation made under the act that governs fire safety standards for equipment, systems, buildings, structures, land and premises in Ontario
- other regulations made under the act that govern fire safety matters such as, firefighter certification, community risk assessments, mandatory inspections and fire drills in vulnerable occupancies
Other key OFM responsibilities include:
- providing advice and assistance on the application and enforcement of the legislation
- administering a Fire Marshal Review process for persons affected by orders issued under the FPPA
- administering provincial emergency systems involving fire services
- conducting fire investigations
- maintaining fire-related statistics
- applied research
- training and certification of firefighters
The Fire Marshal is the principal adviser to government on public fire protection policy and fire safety issues. Both the Fire Marshal and Deputy Fire Marshal are statutory positions, appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. The powers and duties of the Fire Marshal are laid out in Part III of the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997.
Municipal fire departments
Municipal fire departments operate independently of the Office of the Fire Marshal (OFM) with distinct roles and responsibilities.
The FPPA defines the powers and duties of the Fire Marshal on a provincial scale, and the responsibilities of municipal councils for fire-related services at the local level.
The Fire Marshal has the delegated authority to issue directives to all fire services within the province.
Municipal fire department services
Generally, municipal councils establish and fund fire departments to deliver local fire protection and prevention services, including:
- running local public fire safety education and fire prevention programs
- providing fire suppression services, such as firefighting
- conducting inspections to enforce the Fire Code, which may result in tickets, fines and prosecution
Municipal fire departments may provide other services that are necessary depending on the needs and circumstances of the communities they serve. For example, additional services a fire department might provide include:
- emergency medical response
- automobile extrication
- fire, water or ice rescue
- hazardous materials response
Supporting fire prevention and protection
The OFM works to ensure that all fire departments in Ontario provide the right levels of fire prevention and protection based on the needs and circumstances of the areas they serve and the provisions of the FPPA. The OFM monitors service levels for each fire department and provides the following support:
- training for firefighters and other fire department personnel
- seminars and materials to help fire departments understand their legislated obligations
- programs, resources and guidelines on fire department management, firefighter safety, risk analysis, fire prevention, public education, volunteer recruitment, master fire planning and fire protection
- professional development seminars
- media relations tools and public service announcements
- information on product recalls and warnings
- news relevant to their profession including peer activities
- recognizing service of fire department personnel
The OFM also provides fire departments and municipal councils with advice and assistance.
Each fire department is assigned an OFM Fire Protection Adviser who can be called upon to:
- assist with fire safety inspections
- make recommendations for improving the efficiency or effectiveness of their fire protection services
- offer advice on other fire safety matters
OFM engineering and technical staff assist with:
- interpretations and technical issues involving the FPPA
- assessing the circumstances that may warrant building closure
- technical guidance to prep the Order to Close and related documents
Ontario is divided into four service regions. Each region has an associated OFM regional office that provides fire investigation and advisory services.
Includes the district of Parry Sound, the regional municipalities of Durham and Ottawa and the counties of:
- Kawartha Lakes
- Leeds and Grenville
- Lennox and Addington
- Prescott and Russell
- Prince Edward
- Stormont Dundas
Includes the regional municipalities of:
Includes counties of:
Includes the regional municipality of Sudbury, and districts of:
- Parry Sound
Includes districts of Rainy River, Thunder Bay, Fort Frances and Kenora.
Under the FPPA, the Fire Marshal has the duty to investigate the cause, origin and circumstances of any fire, explosion or condition that, in the opinion of the Fire Marshal, might have caused either:
- loss of life
- damage to property
Every year, the OFM investigates approximately 600 fires, representing 80 to 100 deaths, and fires where firefighters are injured or killed while they were executing their duties.
- help determine why a death occurred and how to prevent deaths in the future
- help identify trends in fire emergencies
- ensure fire protection services are maintained for every Ontarian
These investigations are important for:
- public education
- legislation and standards
- legal proceedings and prosecution of offenders
- helping to improve public safety and security from fires and other public safety hazards
The OFM currently investigates:
- fires resulting in either a fatality or serious injury requiring person(s) to be admitted as in-patient(s) to a hospital
- explosions, where the explosion is the primary event
- all fires in vulnerable occupancies such as retirement homes, care and treatment occupancies and care occupancies, as defined in the Fire Code
- fires suspected of being deliberately started in an area or circumstances where there should not be a fire, and for which expert investigative assistance is required to determine the cause, origin or circumstance
- large loss fires of $500,000 and over, or where the loss is significant to the community
- fires of unusual origin or circumstances and where expert investigative assistance is required to determine the cause
- fires resulting in unusual fire/smoke spread
- fires involving circumstances that may result in widespread public concern (environmental)
- fires in multi-unit residential occupancies where fire spread is beyond the unit of origin, or where suspected Fire Code violations have impacted on the circumstances of the event
- fires involving clandestine drug operations or marijuana grow operations
- provincial interest fires that are identified and defined by the OFM
The OFM maintains comprehensive data on:
- fire-related injuries and deaths
- other emergency responses made by Ontario's fire departments
All Ontario fire departments are responsible for recording data on every emergency response they make and submitting it to the OFM.
The OFM analyzes and transforms the collected data into valuable information that is used to develop:
- fire prevention and public education programs
- community risk assessments
- legislation that helps protect people, property and the environment
Provincial fire incident summaries
The following provincial fire incident summaries, which present statistics and data on fires in Ontario, are available by request:
- Ontario Fire Incident Summary (Annual, 10-year summary)
- Fire Loss in Ontario - Causes, Trends and Issues (10-year summary)
- Ontario Smoke Alarm Status in Residential Fires (10-year summary)
- Ontario Fatal Fires: Summary (10-year summary)
- Ontario Residential Fire Fatalities Children, Adults, Seniors (10-year summary)
- Ontario Residential Fires: Injuries (10-year summary)
- Ontario Fatal Fires: Fire Death Rate (20-year summary)
To get a copy of any of the summaries, email AskOFM@ontario.ca.
Provincial emergency systems
The following provincial emergency system resources are available to work with Ontario's fire services.
Emergency Preparedness and Response Unit (EPRU)
At times, fire departments may need to respond to incidents that are beyond their capabilities and the capabilities of the mutual aid system, but are not incidents that are defined as emergencies requiring full provincial emergency response.
In these situations, fire departments may request the assistance of the OFM's Emergency Preparedness and Response Unit (EPRU) through the appointed mutual aid fire coordinator. A municipality that needs help maintains command and control and is responsible for results management for the incident.
The EPRU is based in Midhurst, Ontario. It has emergency response vehicles and equipment that can be deployed from Midhurst and Thunder Bay. To assist fire departments, the OFM can also request specialized technical advice and expertise on their behalf.
Multidisciplinary, highly specialized teams
The Office of the Fire Marshal oversees, administers and supports Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with six municipal fire services, to enable multidisciplinary, highly specialized teams to be deployed as needed throughout Ontario to support local responders.
These teams are available on a province-wide basis to respond to large-scale, complex natural or human-caused emergencies in a planned, coordinated and timely manner.
Fire coordinators for counties, regions and districts may request access to provincial support from these teams by contacting the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre.
Chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, explosive response teams
A chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives (CBRNE) event is either:
- an uncontrolled release of chemicals, biological agents, or radioactive contamination into the environment
- an explosion that cause widespread damage
These incidents can be caused by accident or by an act of terrorism.
Ontario has several CBRNE response teams able to respond to these events:
- three CBRNE technician teams, located in Toronto, Windsor and Ottawa
- three technician-level hazardous material (HazMat) teams, located in North Bay, Thunder Bay and Peterborough
The Ontario Provincial Police's urban search and rescue response team is also trained in CBRNE response.
Urban search and rescue teams
Urban search and rescue (USAR) teams are mobile integrated teams with specialized rescue skills, supplemented by search, medical and structural assessment resources.
USAR teams rescue victims from major structural collapse or other entrapments using specially trained dogs and electronic search equipment. A team may respond to a variety of incidents, including:
- severe storms
USAR teams are classified at three levels of capability: heavy, medium and light.
Ontario has one heavy USAR (HUSAR) team, one medium USAR (MUSAR) team and two light USAR teams. The City of Toronto maintains Ontario's HUSAR team with the Office of the Fire Marshal through a Memorandum of Understanding.
The Ontario Provincial Police maintain Ontario's MUSAR team as part of the Urban Search and Rescue and CBRNE response team.
In addition to the above, the OFM also provides:
- advice and assistance to local responders by hazardous materials specialists
- support to the OFM’s own Fire Investigations Services for complex fires related to:
- hazardous materials
- clandestine drug labs
- marijuana grow ops
- resources, including:
- decontamination tents
- portable radios
- self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA)
- monitoring devices
- plugging kits
- an SCBA refill station coupled with air compressor (located in Midhurst and Thunder Bay)