With cooler overnight temperatures beginning to sweep across the state, firefighters are urging Queenslanders to exercise caution when warming their homes, themselves and their families.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) Commissioner Katarina Carroll said while firefighters attended house fires year round, the winter months were particularly busy.
“Last winter, our fire crews attended 561 residential structure fires across the state,” Ms Carroll said.
“This was more than any other season of the year and is an increase on figures from 2014.”
Ms Carroll said the longer nights and shorter days of winter meant residents were more likely to have their homes closed up and heating appliances switched on.
“It may be harder to distinguish heat or smell smoke coming from a house fire, having homes shut from the cold weather and heating appliances turned on,” she said.
“Residents need to be mindful before going to bed, or leaving the home, to switch off all heating and electrical appliances to reduce the fire risk.”
Acting Manager of the State Fire Investigation Unit Daren Mallouk said it was not uncommon for firefighters to be called out to fires started by heaters or other electrical goods that were in poor condition or not maintained properly.
“People are often surprised at just how easily fires can start in the home,” Mr Mallouk said.
“Every year firefighters attend structure fires caused by faulty or poorly maintained heating equipment and incidents where flammable materials were placed too close to appliances.”
Mr Mallouk said residents should check all their heating appliances, including electric blankets as well as indoor and outdoor heaters, to ensure they were safe to use this winter.
“It is crucial that heating appliances are checked, regardless of their age, for fraying, exposed cords or rust,” he said.
“Just like indoor heaters, portable outdoor heaters need to be kept clear of flammable materials and should be checked regularly for faults or damage.
“Gas cylinders and hose fittings should be checked for leaks and should be turned off and disconnected when not in use.
“When winter’s bite truly hits, we want everyone to be well prepared.”
Mr Mallouk also reminded residents to beware of hazards that could spark fire at any time.
“Overheated battery chargers and power points are another common cause of house fires,” he said.
“Even laptops, if left running and under a blanket or sheet for a significant amount of time, can become fire hazards, so it’s important that everyone exercises common sense and uses these appliances appropriately.”
If a house fire does occur, residents are urged to enact their fire escape plan, leave immediately and call Triple Zero (000) once they have safely exited the home.
QFES offers a free home fire safety visit called Safehome. To book a Safehome visit call 13 QGOV (13 74 68) or visit www.qfes.qld.gov.au