WCMCI Fire & Safety's Fire-Incident Experience

According to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) each of us will experience  *5 home fires in our life time.

  • 5 is the number of home fires you can expect
  • 25% chance your household will have a reported home fire
  • 20% chance that someone will suffer a fire injury
  • 1% chance that someone in your household will suffer an injury

*Source: NFPA

I have experienced two fire-incidents including one unreported home fire.

  • home fire (unreported)
  • BBQ fire (unreported)

The Unreported Home Fire-Incident

I was making coffee on the stove while visiting my son in Toronto. I turned on the stove and left the kitchen to take a quick shower. As I stepped out of the shower I could hear the smoke alarm in the hall ringing. I thought for a moment that the coffee was boiling over and burning on the element causing a nuisance alarm.

I opened the bathroom door and discovered an apartment full of smoke. From the distance I observed the kitchen glowing bright orange. I woke my son immediately as he did not hear the alarm ringing. I silenced the alarm and went to the kitchen.

I observed a pot on the stove in flames and the kitchen cabinets on fire. I turned off the stove and put a lid on the pot extinguishing the flames. I carefully placed the hot pot in the sink. I then proceeded to deal with the burning cabinets. I had a shirt in my hand and used it to quickly swat the burning cabinets.

With the fire out I needed to get rid of the smoke filling the apartment causing us to have trouble breathing. I placed a fan in the window and reversed its direction and I asked my son to open a window in another room. This quickly cleared the smoke. With the smoke and carbon monoxide exhausted from the apartment we were finally safe.

Fire Incident Conclusion

I wanted to share this story with you for three reasons;

  1. fire-incident could have escalated to the entire apartment building if the smoke alarm did not operate
  2. the importance of checking status of the smoke alarms in your home
  3. a fire can easily happen at anytime to anyone

BTW.. the time lapse from turning on the stove to hearing the smoke alarm in the fire-incident was less than 10 minutes.

Below is detailed information on smoke alarm performance in Ontario and Ottawa. My wish is for you to read the information as it is may be eye opening for you.

Smoke Alarm Status in Ontario

Ontario Fire Marshal reviewed smoke alarm performance data in reported home fires between 2012 and 2016 where a loss occurred found

  • smoke alarms operated in 44% of the home loss fires
  • there was no smoke alarm in 17% of home fires
  • presence of a smoke alarm was undetermined in 16%
  • smoke alarm present, operation was undetermined in 8%
  • smoke alarm present, did not operate in **15%

The **15% that did not operate

  • 4% did not operate because no battery or AC power
  • 6% did not operate because they were remote or separated from the fire
  • less than 1%: unit failure was suspected, improper installation, tampering (vandalism)
  • 1% various other reasons for non-operation
  • 3% the reason for non-operation was reported as undetermined

The Ontario Fire Marshal`s office also reported 762 fire deaths from 2007 and 2016.

Ottawa Smoke Alarm Performance Data

Since 2015, WCMCI Fire & Safety has been consistently removing 100s of expired and non-performing smoke alarms from homes in the Ottawa region annually.

We have been busy replacing missing, disconnected and dead units. Sadly, we have observed batteries installed incorrectly and 10 year battery smoke alarms inoperable with less that two years of service on them.

Our conclusion is that the Ontario Smoke Alarm Performance data is accurate and that we could possibly be experiencing a high level of optimism bias when it comes to maintaining residential smoke alarms and fire safety equipment.

Optimism bias is specifically that we will not experience a home fire-incident otherwise what would explain 762 fire deaths from 2007 and 2016.



WCMCI Fire & Safety offers an annual maintenance program solution


Carbon Monoxide Alarm Performance Data

In 2015, the Ontario Building Code and Fire Code mandated that homes install Carbon Monoxide Alarms even though they have been available since the late 1990s.

Carbon Monoxide performance data is available from AM J Public Health in Article PMC3222366. A test of residential CO Alarms conducted in October 2011 resulted in an overall failure rate of 57% of all carbon monoxide alarms when tested with detector tester.


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