It is estimated that over 50 deaths a year in Australia are caused by accidental house firesi. While many house fires are preventable, over 11,000 residential fires occur yearly in Australiai.
Home fires pose a serious risk to you, your family, your home, and your possessions. Common causes of fires in the home include an unattended stove or heating appliances left on. We look at some common causes of fires in the home and the measures you can take to prevent a fire from starting.
Major causes of home fires
According to Fire & Rescue NSW, more than half of all home fires start in the kitchenii. Not surprisingly, many of these fires start in or on stoves, ovens, toasters, and microwaves, typically found in the kitchen. Home fires can also be caused by faulty or damaged electrical wiring throughout the house and in home appliances; the incorrect use of appliances; and items such as candles and heating appliances (irons, room heaters, electric blankets, hair straighteners, etc.) being left unattendediii.
Safety in the kitchen
Fire & Rescue NSW recommends the following measures to improve fire safety in your kitcheniv:
- Never leave children unattended in the kitchen and always keep them away from hotplates, stovetops and ovens while cooking.
- Turn pot and pan handles inwards so they can't be knocked over or reached by children.
- Turn off all cooking appliances after use.
- Never leave your cooking unattended; if you need to leave the kitchen while cooking, remember to turn off the hotplate/stove.
- Regularly clean kitchen appliances, and check that they are not damaged or faulty. If you notice damage or fault, get the appliance fixed by a professional or have the appliance replaced.
- Keep a fire extinguisher and fire blanket in the kitchen at least 1m away from the stove. Make sure that you and your family members know how and when to use these items.
- Keep tea towels, oven mitts, paper towels and other flammable materials away from heat sources.
- Never use water to put out fat or oil fires; water may cause the fire to rise and spread rapidly.
- If cooking oil in a pan catches fire, turn off the hotplate/stove immediately (if safe to do so), and slide a lid over the pan or use the fire blanket to smother the fire.
- Never attempt to heat metal in a microwave. This includes metal crockery or utensils such as metal bowls, metal foil or twist ties. It's best to only use microwave-safe containers that state this on them (some plastics are not microwave-safe)v.
- If there is a fire in your microwave oven, turn it off immediately and unplug the power cord if safe to do so. Wait until the fire suffocates and do not open the door of the microwave until the fire is completely outv.
Safety in the home
According to Fire & Rescue NSW, the areas of the home most susceptible to fire apart from the kitchen, are the sleeping and lounge areasvi. Here are some tips to prevent a fire from breaking out in areas of the home outside of the kitchenvi,vii:
- Don't overload power boards.
- Ensure electronic devices such as laptops, TVs, and monitors, do not overheat. Good air-flow around the devices will prevent overheating and reduce the risk of a fire.
- Regularly check that all plugs are firmly fixed in power boards and that there isn't a build up of dust in sockets; also check for damage. If you notice damage, have a professional electrician replace the sockets or plugs.
- Always place a screen in front of your fireplace when in use.
- Turn electric blankets on 30 minutes before getting into bed and turn it off once you are in bed; check electric blankets for damage or frayed cords before placing one on the bed.
- Keep curtains, tablecloths and bedding away from electric and oil heaters.
- Clean the lint filter of your clothes tumble dryer after every use.
- Always extinguish candles or any other open flame before going to bed.
- Don't leave powered electrical appliances like hairdryers, hair straighteners and laptops on beds.
- Always remember to turn off any heat appliances such as electric heaters and blankets, hair straighteners and irons.
- Always follow instructions with regards to appliance use.
A smoke alarm is a necessary device for your home. They detect smoke from fires and alert people in the home of danger. Be sure to test your smoke alarms regularly and replace your batteries yearlyviii. If a fire starts and you feel you cannot put it out, evacuate your home immediately using a fire escape strategy, and call the Fire Brigade on 000.
A fire in the home can be a traumatic, dangerous and costly event. Home insurance is a way to protect your family financially in the event of damage from fire to your home. Get a quote from Allianz today.