Ontario’s fire marshal says there’s been an increase in fire deaths this year as COVID-19 measures force many people to stay home and do more home cooking.
Jon Pegg says there have been 51 fire fatalities between Jan. 1 and May 4, a 65 per cent increase over the same time period last year. He says 17 Ontarians have died in fires this past March alone.
Fire marshal office spokesman Ryan Betts says it wasn’t clear how many deaths occurred in homes and how many were due to cooking but says unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires.
He adds that “we do know more people are staying at home these days and therefore the potential is greater for things like cooking fires and smoking.”
The fire marshal is also warning people not to use a microwave to sterilize face masks or other personal protective equipment. Pegg says microwave ovens are not designed to heat cloth materials, so there is a risk of the mask overheating and catching fire.
Asked at a news conference Tuesday how people should clean their masks, Ontario’s associate medical officer of health Dr. Barbara Yaffe responded washing is best.
“If we’re talking cloth masks, every time you use it you should wash it, launder it in hot water — regular laundry. Definitely don’t put it in the microwave. That’s a fire hazard,” she said.
Betts says he is not aware of any fires caused by microwaves and masks in Ontario, but says it has been an issue in the United States and United Kingdom.