Ontario fire marshal warns against microwaving face masks

Face masks can easily catch fire, officials say.

Ontario's Fire Marshal is reminding the public to follow the recommendations of medical and health professionals on how to use and clean personal protective equipment and warns against using a microwave to sterilize a mask can be a fire risk.

"Heating a face mask in a microwave, in an effort to decontaminate it, is a potential fire risk and should never be done," said Jon Pegg, Ontario Fire Marshal.

Microwave ovens are not designed to heat cloth materials, so there is a risk of the mask overheating and catching fire, he adds.

Many brands of masks also have metal nose wires or staples inside them, which can easily ignite.



Pegg tells the Canadian Press (CP) there has been an increase in fire deaths this year, likely due to more people cooking at home due to COVID-19 restrictions.

According to Pegg, there were 51 fire fatalities between Jan. 1 and May 4, representing a 65 per cent increase over the same time last year.

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While it's not clear how many of the deaths occurred in residences or how many were due to cooking, fire marshal spokesman Ryan Betts tells CP the leading cause of home fires is unattended cooking.


Here are some tips to reduce fire risks in your home, courtesy of the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management.

  • Always stay in the kitchen when you are cooking.

  • Keep a close eye on anyone drinking alcohol if they are attempting to cook or smoke.

  • Encourage smoking outside the home =and thoroughly extinguish all smoking materials.

  • Never leave candles unattended.

  • Don't overload electrical outlets and running electrical cords under rugs or furniture. This can damage cords and cause a fire

  • Ensure items that can burn are at least one metre away from space heaters.

  • Routinely test fire alarms.

  • Have a home fire escape plan.

  • Keep all exits clear of obstructions.