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Canberra
Sunday, June 20, 2021

Winter fire safety campaign begins

Most people enjoy a roaring fire in winter, but not when their house is a blazing inferno. The ACT Government launched its winter fire safety campaign on 1 June, to help Canberrans prevent fires and keep them under control.

“Winter is here, and we are asking Canberrans to be prepared for winter fire season,” said Mick Gentleman, Minister for Police and Emergency Services.

There are more house fires in winter than at any time of the year, Mr Gentleman said; 60% of the 230 fires to which ACT Fire and Rescue are called each year happen in winter.

Most begin in the kitchen, while fires caused by dryers and other heaters increased last year.

“Most of these fires are preventable. We remind the Canberra community to keep flammable materials at least one metre from a heater, to regularly clean the lint filter in your dryer, and not to leave cooking unattended.”

ACT Fire and Rescue Station Officer Sandy White and firefighters Sean Guinard and Martin Genge. Photo: Nick Fuller

To reduce the number of house fires, and advise Canberrans how to put out smalls fire in the home, ACT Fire and Rescue will run three publicity campaigns this winter via the ACT Emergency Services Agency website and social media, said Superintendent Matthew Shonk, ACT Fire and Rescue.

June will focus on using fire blankets and fire extinguishers. Every household should have one. They are freely available on the market, he said. Prices begin at $35 or so.

July will look at heater and dryer fires. Remember to clean the lint from your clothes dryer, and do not hang clothes over heaters.

August will concentrate on the leading cause of fires: kitchen safety. ACT Fire and Rescue have run a campaign – “Don’t stop looking while you’re cooking” – with some success, but kitchen fires were still the most common.

ACT Fire & Rescue’s Martin Genge puts out a stove fire with a fire blanket. Photo: Nick Fuller

While modern life is faster, the same, unfortunately, is true of fires. Flames can take hold very quickly, Supt Shonk said, because dwellings are full of man-made fibres, more flammable than timber.

“Our fires are developing much faster, and can go from an incipient stage to fully developed fireworks in seconds.”

When the fire brigade is called to a house, he said, homeowners were always surprised how quickly the fire happened.

A working smoke alarm was the best forewarning. “[Fires] often happen when people aren’t watching,” Supt Shonk said.

Although the safety campaign will teach Canberrans how to put out fires, the safest thing can be to call Triple Zero and get out of the house. For more information and fire safety tips (including for children), visit www.esa.act.gov.au.

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