As we enter the year’s colder months, turning to our heaters to combat the arctic temperatures, Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) and Country Fire Authority (CFA) are reminding the public to remain vigilant, with residential fire risks at the highest throughout the winter period.

The number of Victorians killed in house fires significantly increased in 2020, totalling 22, the state’s highest residential fire death toll in 10 years.

According to FRV and CFA data, autumn and winter are the highest risk seasons for residential fires in Victoria, owing to the increased use of home heating.

When we reach for the heater remote or snuggle in front of open fires this winter, firefighters from FRV and the CFA are urging people to be aware of the fire risks inside their homes.

In a recent statement from the CFA, Acting Chief Officer Garry Cook expressed the importance of fire safety.

More than 70 per cent of fatal house fires start in bedrooms or lounge rooms, with a significant number caused by heating systems, appliances, and equipment such as open fires, wood heaters, fixed electrical or gas-powered appliances, and portable electrical, gas, or kerosene heaters.

CFA sign

“Never leave portable heaters and fireplaces unattended and turn off heaters before leaving the room,” Mr Cook said.

“Ensure fireplace embers are extinguished before leaving your house or going to bed.

“Ideally, gas heaters should be professionally serviced every two years.”

On average, Victoria’s fire services respond to more than 3000 house fires across the state each year, and many could be prevented by taking simple precautions.

“While fire threats are very real, there are several things you can take to safeguard your family, your home, and yourself,” Deputy Commissioner of Fire Rescue Victoria Michelle Young said.

“Poorly maintained gas fires can cause deadly carbon monoxide poisoning, and we have seen tragic consequences of this in the past.

“There should be no greater reason to have your gas heater inspected and serviced than to ensure the safety of loved ones.

“Another dangerous yet common mistake people make is drying clothes too close to heaters and fireplaces. Clothes should be kept at least one metre from the heat source.

“Every household should consider their fire safety practices and work to reduce the potential risks around their home, particularly when winter hits.”

For you and your family’s safety this winter, Fire Rescue Victoria and Country Fire Authority recommend that all home heating, including flues and chimneys, be regularly cleaned and serviced by a certified technician.

It is imperative that you switch off or extinguish all heating devices before leaving home or going to sleep.

Always keep youngsters under adult supervision and at a safe distance from all sources of heating.

If you are in the market for portable heating appliances, choose models with automatic safety switches that turn the heater off if tipped over.

Electric heaters and wet areas do not mix. The results are shocking. Keeping portable electric heaters away from wet areas avoids the possibility of electrocution.

And last but certainly not least, smoke alarms are essential and in the event of a fire, they may be the only thing to save your life.

Consider smoke alarms in the same category as your new woolen throw – a bedroom essential.

The FVA and CFA recommend installing smoke alarms in every living area and bedroom.