CFA and Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) firefighters respond to an average of 3,000 residential fire incidents across the state within a year, and more than 240 of those result from heating systems.
Home heating systems vary and can include fixed electrical or gas-powered appliances, portable electrical, gas or kerosene heaters, as well as open fires and wood heaters.
CFA Acting Chief Officer Garry Cook AFSM said as we begin to spend more time indoors, Victorians should ensure they have their gas and electrical heaters serviced every two years to safeguard their loved ones from fire.
“We’ve already seen CFA respond to 23 heater fire incidents this year, and we’re only just entering the winter season,” Acting Chief Officer Cook AFSM said.
“We know from last year’s data that most fires that resulted in serious injuries and fatalities started in lounge rooms and sleeping areas, and for those lounge areas, these were mostly sparked by heating systems that at times were not working properly and when located too close to flammable materials.
“A common mistake we are finding is households are keeping their drying clothes too close to heaters and fireplaces, so it’s best to ensure they are at least one metre away from all heating.
“Regardless of when you turn a heater on, just be mindful to turn them off before you leave the house or go to sleep.”
Fire Rescue Commissioner Gavin Freeman AFSM said the colder months are some of the riskiest times of the year for fires in the home and most of these fires can be prevented.
“Taking a few moments to check your heaters and fireplaces before winter sets in could mean the difference between life and death for your family,” Fire Rescue Commissioner Gavin Freeman AFSM said.
“Make sure your heaters are regularly cleaned, serviced, or checked by a certified technician. Don’t leave portable heaters unattended and always supervise children near all types of heaters.
“Don’t forget to check in on any outdoor heaters you may have as well, ensuring the area they are positioned in is flat, has good air flow and away from objects that can catch alight.
“As their purpose is to be outside, never use your outdoor heaters or cooking equipment inside your home, as it can lead to deadly build-up of gases.”
Victorians are urged to keep their heating devices well-maintained and remember that 10-year long-life battery or interconnected smoke alarms located in all bedrooms and living areas of the home can save lives for as little as $20.
When it comes to home heating, FRV and CFA recommends:
- Never leave portable heaters and fireplaces unattended; turn off heating devices before leaving home or going to sleep.
- Drying clothes and other items must be kept at least one metre away from all heating.
- Residents should have their gas heaters inspected and serviced every two years to ensure the safety of loved ones from carbon monoxide poisoning or fire.
- Children must be supervised near all types of heating. Maintain a safe distance between children and heating.
- Heaters should be installed as per the manufacturer’s instructions, away from wet areas if they are portable and when purchasing a heater look for one that has an automatic safety switch that will turn off if the heater is tipped over.
- Residents should note home heating systems include fixed electrical or gas-powered appliances, portable electrical, gas or kerosene heaters, as well as open fires and wood heaters.
- Victorians should purchase affordable smoke alarms and prioritise installing them in all bedrooms, hallways and living areas. Smoke alarms should be tested monthly and cleaned annually to ensure they are working properly.
Reviewed 19 June 2023