Most fatal fires occur in the home and winter is a high-risk time. A faulty electrical appliance or washing left too close to a heater could have disastrous consequences, causing major structural damage and exposing family members to harm.

The 3 most common causes of winter fires are:

Accidents or distractions from cooking in the kitchen
Fireplace and heater-related incidents
Electrical faults

In winter 2008, cooking equipment accounted for 31.3% of residential structural fires; heating systems accounted for 14.2% and electrical faults 9.6%.*

* CFA reports indicate that over the last 12 months, approximately 30% of fires in residential dwellings start in the kitchen, with 11% in the bedroom, 11% in the lounge room and 4% in the laundry. Cooking equipment or heating caused 20% of these fires and 20% were caused by electrical faults.

Fortunately there are a few simple things you can do to help protect your family from the dangers of fire. Taking the time to regularly check risk areas (see 'home fire safety checklist'), making sure you have a working smoke alarm, and preparing a home fire escape plan (see 'home fire escape plan'), can give you a greater chance of avoiding
and escaping the devastating effects of fire.

Home fire survival rules

Keep emergency numbers near the phone

Ensure emergency numbers are keyed into all the phones in your home.
Dial 000 (Triple Zero) for fire, police and ambulance.
It's never too early to teach children how to responsibly contact emergency services.

Practise your home fire escape plan regularly

Identify the quickest, safest way to get out of the house from every room,
including upper floors.
Agree on a place to meet outside (letter box or nature strip) and practise it.
Ensure your house number is clearly visible so emergency services can find you quickly.

Stop, drop, cover and roll

If your clothes catch fire - stop, drop, cover your face with your hands and roll to smother the flames.
To help someone else, throw a woollen blanket over them to extinguish the flames.

Get down low and go go go!

If there's smoke in your house, get down low and go, go, go!
In a fire, the safest area for breathing is near the floor where the air is cooler and cleaner, so remember to crawl low in smoke.

Check doors for heat before opening

Use the back of your hand to check for heat, then get down low and crawl to safety.
Close doors behind you if possible. If the door is hot, use another exit.
Get everyone out of the house as quickly as possible.

Call the fire brigade

Call the fire brigade from a neighbour's house, public or mobile phone and wait for them to arrive.
Tell them where the fire is and if anyone is still inside.
Never go back inside for any reason.