Preventable fires spark CFA concern

The kitchen remains a hot spot for preventable house fires. Picture: Keith Pakenham

The kitchen remains a hot spot for preventable house fires. Picture: Keith Pakenham

CFA crews attended more than 60 preventable house fires in the south-west over 2015-16, new figures show.

Firefighters were called to 24 fires in Warrnambool, 13 in Moyne, 12 in Southern Grampians, nine in Glenelg and eight in the Corangamite Shire region.

Across the state, firefighters attended 3098 house fires last year. Fourteen people were killed and there was more than $88 million in property loss.

The Victorian figures are 3.5 per cent down on 2015 fires (3211), but still average more than eight a day.

CFA chief officer Steve Warrington said house fires were most common in the cooler months.

“As the weather cools down, people bring out their heaters, turn on their electric blankets and stoke up their wood fires,” he said.

“This means we see a spike in heating-related fires.”

More than 40 per cent of house fires occurred in the kitchen – statewide 1306 incidents were reported in the kitchen. Of those, 493 were caused by unattended cooking.

“Unattended cooking is a major hazard all year round,” Mr Warrington said. 

“This often happens when people are distracted and forget about that pot boiling on the stove, or leave something in the oven while they run a quick errand.”

Faulty electrical appliances (250), faulty electrical distribution (251) and chimneys (136) were among the other causes of preventable blazes.

While most fires began in kitchens, bedrooms (254), and lounges (209), were also common.

“We also find that people leave candles and oil burners unattended in a dangerous position where they can catch on to curtains and other flammable items,” Mr Warrington said.

“We strongly urge people to keep an eye on open flames at all times and never leave them burning when they are not around.”

Mr Warrington said there were some simple steps people could take to prevent a house fire, including booking a licensed gas-fitter to check gas heaters; checking chimneys, flues and fire boxes for cracks, rust and debris; checking electric blankets for kinks in the wiring; cleaning out dryer lint filters; and checking appliances for frayed or damaged wiring.

The CFA said older people and those with a disability were at greater risk of being killed in a house fire.