Fire safety in Australian homes

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics: Australian Social Trends 2000 "in 1998, 123 people died from accidental fire or flame injuries. Of these, 70 occurred in a home fire.

While total deaths from fire fell by 47% from 1968 to 1998, deaths in private dwelling fires only dropped by 20%"

Common causes of house fires

Information collected by the NSW Fire Brigades shows that fires identified as started by unattended heat sources caused 23% of accidental house fires in NSW in 1998, and increased by 86% between 1987 and 1998. Although fires known to be started by people falling asleep (4%) made up a relatively small proportion of all house fires in New South Wales in 1998, their number increased between 1987 and 1998 by 54%.

However, the biggest increases belonged to the suspicious (136%) and incendiary (310%) categories. These fires, which may be deliberately set, usually cause more damage than do fires that are ignited accidentally.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has summarized the common causes of hose fires which as detailed below;

  • Children refers to those aged 0â??16 years responsible for the lighting of a fire in the home, due to the misuse of either heat from ignition or from the material ignited.
  • Falling asleep includes fires started by a dropped cigarette in bed or asleep with equipment left on. Incendiary refers to cases where a legal decision or physical evidence indicates the fire was deliberately set.
  • Suspicious indicates the possibility that the fire may have been deliberately set, separate unrelated fires were found, or there were suspicious circumstances and no accidental or natural ignition factor was found.
  • All other causes includes all other misuses of heat from ignition, misuses of ignited material, mechanical failure, design, construction and installation deficiency, operational deficiency, natural ignitions and other ignition factors.

Equipment starting house fires

  • Heating systems include central heating units, water heaters, indoor open fireplaces, gas vent flues and chimneys and chimney connectors. Cooking equipment includes stationary ovens and surface units, fixed deep fryers, portable cooking appliances, grease hoods and ducts.
  • Electrical distribution equipment includes wiring, meters, switches, cords, plugs, lamps and light bulbs.
  • Appliances include televisions, videos, dryers, washing machines, portable appliances, ceiling and exhaust fans, dishwashers and electronic equipment.
  • Service maintenance equipment includes torches, welding and cutting equipment. Other object includes power saws, handheld garden maintenance equipment, electric fencing, flammable liquid transfer equipment and processing equipment.

Protecting your family and your home

The NSW Fire Brigade provides a range of fact sheets and safety checklists to put up on the fridge for your whole family to see. These include a Home Fire Safety Checklist poster (PDF 43KB) and a Protect your family from fire fact sheet (PDF 42KB).

The Country Fire Authority of Victoria provides a home fire escape grid (PDF 141KB), which can help you draw up your Fire Escape Plan.

The Victorian Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board has information on what you can do to make your home safer for you and your family.

The Fire & Emergency Services Authority of Western Australia offers fire safety advice.

The Child and Youth Health Unit of South Australia has fire safety advice for kids.

The Queensland Fire and Rescue Service offer a wide range of fire safety information.