House fires jump 20 per cent

Winter may be the time to snuggle in front of the fire, but with a 20 per cent spike in house fires during the colder months, it’s best not to get too cosy.

Leading over-50s insurer, Apia, received 20 per cent more claims for house fires during June, July and August last year compared to the average month in 2012.

“As fireplaces are rekindled and heaters and electric blankets are brought out from storage, Apia is urging people to check that they are safe to use,” warns David Skapinker, Apia spokesperson.

 A survey of more than 3,100 people from across Australia found that approximately one-third of over 50s who have experienced a house fire say it occurred due to a faulty appliance, or an accident with an open flame or appliance.

Nearly one-in-five Australians aged over 50 say they don’t bother to check their heating equipment for safety at the beginning of winter.

“Every year Apia witnesses a spike in what are, in many cases, avoidable house fires, events that are both terrifying and tragic for homeowners,” Mr Skapinker said.

 “Fires can have a far greater impact than just the loss of possessions and we urge people to take care with fires and take the time now to check their heating equipment,” Mr Skapinker added.

Some of the more common causes of house fires include:

  • Embers from open log fires float out of the fireplace once you have gone to bed. Make sure to use a screen in front of the fireplace and try to ensure the fire is fully extinguished before you go to sleep for the night.
  • Electric heaters either have faulty wiring, or are left too close to lounges, curtains or other furnishings
  • Candles left burning unattended or overnight are often the cause of house fires. Ensure that a fireproof plate is placed under the candle and that it is fully extinguished before you leave the room or go to sleep
  • Winter may be the time to cook up a hearty meal, but oil in pots and pans causes many fires when people leave the room, often to answer the phone, and forget about what’s on the stove.

This report comes from Apia, a leading insurance provider for over 50s. Visit the Apia website at