There are a number of challenges involved in protecting the Montréal area due to its geographic, socio-demographic, economic and technological characteristics.

The Service de sécurité incendie de Montréal (SIM) is in charge of protecting the entire island of Montréal, which covers an area of 500 km2, has 400,000 residential, commercial, industrial and institutional buildings and nearly 1,900,000 inhabitants. Montréal also has a major underground network comprising 30 km of corridors, passageways and shopping centres. To simplify management of its operations, the SIM divided its territory into 12 different regions with a total of 66 fire stations.

A cosmopolitan metropolis

According to Statistics Canada's 2011 census, Montréal has the second highest population of all Canadian metropolitan areas. The Montréal agglomeration, part of the greater Montréal area, had 1,886,481 inhabitants in 2011 with an estimated population density of 3,780 inhabitants per km2. Out of this number:

  • 1,649,519 live within city limits, which are composed of 19 boroughs (87.4%)
  • 237,322 live in 15 neighbouring cities (12,6%).

Source: Statistics Canada. 2012. Montréal, Québec (Code 2466023) and Montréal, Québec (Code 2466). Census Profile, 2011 Census.

Montréal's population is a human mosaic of 100 different cultural communities, with ethnic or multi-ethnic concentrations in certain neighbourhoods.

A city surrounded by water

Montréal is bordered to the north by the Des Prairies river, to the south by the St. Lawrence River and Lachine rapids, and to the west by the Saint-Louis and Deux Montagnes lakes. The island of Montréal has 266.6 km of shorelines, including 116 km which are accessible by municipal parks. 

Agricultural zones

There are two agricultural zones at the westernmost end of the agglomeration, in L’Île-Bizard and the areas of Senneville and Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue. They are a very small part of the total territory of the Montréal agglomeration. 

Busy downtown area with tall buildings

On weekdays, the population of Ville-Marie is estimated at 370,000. This is a 440% increase to the borough's residential population. Some 331,000 non-residents come downtown to work or study. This has a major impact in terms of ensuring fire safety downtown.

Ville-Marie's built heritage is unique in the city. There are dozens of tall buildings, primarily located downtown.

Many methods of transportation 

With a port linked to 200 port cities across the world, the Montréal Trudeau airport, and its railways and highways that make it possible to get around North America, Montréal is one of the world's biggest cities in terms of transportation. 

The Montréal agglomeration has 5,600 km of highways, streets and local roads, in addition to 880 km of railways serving the Canadian National, the Canadian Pacific and national ports. Montréal is linked to the metropolitan network by 17 bridges, a tunnel bridge and a metro system which link Montréal's north and south shores.

A one-of-a-kind underground network

Montréal is one of the greatest indoor cities in the world, with its 33-km underground city. There are 178 entrances to the underground city, where some 500,000 people pass through, safe from bad weather. These underground facilities are downtown, mainly underneath tall buildings. 

The underground city is made up of passageways, indoor spaces and tunnels that link:

  • 10 metro stations
  • 2 railway stations
  • 2 regional bus stations
  • 63 office complexes
  • 9 large hotels
  • 1,615 dwellings
  • 293 restaurants
  • 1,550 business and service establishments
  • 19 movie theatres
  • 2 universities
  • 1 college
  • 14,500 parking spaces

A rich and diverse climate

Montréal is far from the ocean and has a continental climate with temperatures that differ greatly from season to season, ranging from 30 °C in the summertime to -30 °C in the wintertime. The four seasons have a great deal of influence on residents' lifestyle and behaviour, such as their home heating system or snow removal.

Flourishing industries

The city's large industrial parks, its refineries and railway yards require SIM workers to have special expertise in dangerous materials.