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Weather Cools Down But Heat Is On For House Fires

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13 Apr 2011
As the weather cools down, the risk for house fires increases significantly, as Victorians use wood fires and gas and electrical heating appliances that may not have been turned on since last winter.

Some unseasonably cool weather for this time of year – including the first snowfalls in the Alpine areas in past few days - further highlights this and the cold snap is likely to continue for the next few days, according to Bureau of Meteorology forecasts.

Recently, two houses in outer eastern Melbourne were totally destroyed by fire, with both incidents, in Wonga Park and Mount Dandenong, caused by heaters.

CFA State Duty Officer Peter Lucas said these incidents were an example of how quickly a fire could take hold in the home if a heater was faulty, not properly maintained or was too close to flammable materials.

“Usually, we would expect to see an increase in heater fires during winter months but since February, we have seen some cool temperatures meaning the heaters are being switched on early,” he said.

“Some of these heating appliances wouldn’t have been turned on since last winter, which is why it is so important to check that they are working properly, particularly older heaters.

“If you are in any doubt about your heating appliance, throw it out or get it checked by a professional because taking that simple step can avoid a fire in the home which, as we saw recently, can cause significant amounts of damage and loss.”

In 2010, CFA responded to 37 more electrical-related fires than the previous year, with a rise in all fires where the cause was from a heater. This included fires caused by dryers, central and portable heating, electric blankets and water heaters.

MFB’s Commander Frank Stockton said that heaters and fireplaces were the second most common cause of house fires during the winter months, responsible for 14.2 per cent of all household fires during winter last year.

“During winter last year the MFB attended 78 residential property fires caused by a heating system,” he said.

Commander Stockton said it was important to ensure that portable heaters in particular were not left unsupervised.

“If you leave the room, or go to bed, make sure you turn off the heater,” he said.

“I also can’t stress enough the importance of having a working smoke alarm in your home.   If a fire breaks out while you are asleep, a smoke alarm can save your life.”

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