As Victorians reach for their heaters to ward off the cold snap this weekend and single-digit overnight temperatures next week, firefighters are urging people to be aware of the fire risks inside their homes.
CFA Chief Officer Jason Heffernan said autumn and winter are the highest-risk periods for residential fires in Victoria due in part to the increased use of home heating.
Home heating includes open fires, wood heaters, fixed electrical and gas-powered appliances and portable electrical heaters or those that use gas or kerosene.
“Many residential fires that result in fatalities or serious injuries start in lounge and sleeping areas,” he said.
“Many of these fires are found to be caused by heating systems, appliances and equipment.
“Remember to never leave portable heaters and fireplaces unattended and turn off heaters before leaving the room.
“Ensure fireplace embers are extinguished before leaving your house or going to bed.”
It is vital for all Victorians to check their heaters to ensure they are in good working condition.
Ideally, gas heaters should be professionally serviced every two years.
On average, there are around 3000 house fires in Victoria each year and most could be prevented by taking simple precautions.
“Last year, CFA found that the lounge and bedroom areas were the most common room of fire ignition for incidents resulting in serious injury or death,” CO Heffernan said.
“Most of these lounge room fires are caused by heating systems too close to combustibles.”
He said poorly maintained gas heaters could also cause deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.
“There should be no greater reason to have your gas heater inspected and serviced than to ensure the safety of loved ones,” CO Heffernan said.
“We have seen tragic consequences of this in the past.
“Another dangerous mistake people make is drying clothes near heaters and fireplaces. Clothes should be kept at least one metre from the heat source.
“Every household should consider their fire safety practices and examine the potential risks around their home.
“We know that in the event of a fire, a working smoke alarm can save lives. Smoke alarms should be installed in all sleeping and living areas and preferably be interconnected so that if a fire starts in one room that smoke alarm will go off and also sound all other interconnected smoke alarms.”
For more information on how to prevent fires in your home, visit the CFA website at https://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/plan-prepare/fires-in-the-home.
Heating safety tips
- Ensure heaters are installed, maintained and operated according to manufacturer’s instructions.
- Turn off all heating devices before leaving home or going to sleep.
- Drying clothes and other items must be kept at least one metre away from all heating.
- Children must be supervised near all types of heating. Maintain a safe distance between Children and heating.
- For portable heating appliances choose models that have automatic safety switches that turn the heater off if tipped over.
- Keep portable electric heaters away from wet areas to avoid the possibility of electric shock.
Open fire safety tips
- Always use a fire screen in front of an open fire.
- Ensure ashes are cold before discarding.
- Chimneys and flues should be cleaned annually.
- Keep wood and other combustibles at least one metre away from fire.
- Only burn dry, clean wood.
- Brick chimneys and gas heaters should be checked before winter to prevent fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.