Firefighters warn of electrical fire risk this winter

With many Victorians working from home and spending more time inside as temperatures drop, Victorian fire services are calling on people to make sure their electrical appliances are safe.

Wednesday, 9 June 2021 at 8:51 pm

In the three years from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2020, CFA and FRV attended more than 5,100 electrical fires involving household equipment and appliances.

These include fires started by electrical appliances, cooking equipment and heating and cooling systems.

CFA Chief Officer Jason Heffernan said overloaded power boards, phone and laptop chargers, and electric blankets are of particular concern for fire services.

“There are a range of safety measures people can take to reduce the risk of these everyday items leading to a devastating fire,” CO Heffernan said.

“Check you’re not overloading power boards. Don’t leave electrical appliances like hair straighteners and laptops on soft surfaces. And never leave devices like your phone charging overnight.

“Switch appliances off at the wall when not being used and turn off heaters before going to bed or leaving home.”

A charging battery which overheated recently sparked a fire at a home in Westmeadows. Thankfully the residents escaped unharmed but firefighters worked for 30 minutes to stop the blaze spreading from the garage, which was significantly damaged, to an adjoining house.

Fire Rescue Commissioner Ken Block urged the community take the time to check their home and ensure it is safe.

“Sadly, Victoria’s firefighters often respond to fires that could have been prevented – and on average 18 lives are lost in Victoria each year in preventable house fires,” Commissioner Block said.

“Many people think a house fire won’t happen to them, but the state’s fire and rescue services have attended around 30 electrical fires per week on average in the last three years.

“That’s why it’s vital you have a well-practiced home fire escape plan, and that you test your smoke alarms each month. Only working smoke alarms save lives.

“These simple steps could mean the difference between life and death,” said Commissioner Block.

Firefighters have asked all Victorian households to add these four fire safety measures to their household to-do list to reduce the risk of fire this winter:

  • Test your smoke alarm monthly and clean your smoke alarms every year.
  • Make sure you have a home fire escape plan in place and practice it with your whole family.
  • Your home office should be set up safely. Ensure there are no overloaded power boards or loose cables.
  • Turn off all appliances, including electrical blankets and heaters before going to bed or leaving home.
  • Have electrical equipment tested by an electrician, and check appliances and electric blankets for damage after keeping them in storage.