Fire and Rescue NSW 2011 winter fire safety wrap

Published: 6th September 2011

Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) Acting Commissioner John Benson said today that while winter fire fatalities were fortunately down from last year, it was not a time for the residents of NSW to be complacent about fire safety in their homes.

To date there have been five fatalities for winter this year. By comparison to 2010, there were 12. And there have been a number of major residential fires already in September in Springwood in the Blue Mountains and Towragi on the south coast, with one fatality at each.

While A/Commissioner Benson said he was encouraged by this decrease in the number of people who have died in home fires, with less than half the fatalities for winter this year compared to last, the aim for FRNSW was zero fatalities.

“I am only slightly encouraged by the figures, because one fatality in a home fire is one too many in my opinion,” he said.

“But there were seven less lives lost this year, so people must be listening to our community messages about how to keep your family and property safe from fire in winter.”

The total number of residential fires in NSW in 2011 is 2826, this is down from 3001 for the same time period last year. Of these 1512 have been for the winter months this year, and 1665 for winter 2010.

A/Commissioner Benson added that what was unfortunately noticeable about this year’s fatalities was that three of the five were seniors (over 65s).

“This is a worrying trend as seniors are the least likely adult age group to be able to move quickly and get out of a burning home,” he said.

“We have tried to engage the seniors’ community to improve their understanding of fire safety but I think these figures sadly show that more work needs to be done.

“I cannot stress enough the importance in having a working smoke alarm and having an escape plan in the event of a fire - this is particularly vital for elderly residents whose movement, hearing and sight may be impaired. As well we have a program that assists seniors with installing smoke alarms and battery replacements – they just need to call their local fire station and make inquiries there.”

A/Commissioner Benson also suggested that seniors take heed of simple tips, such as leaving the house keys in the deadlock to help with a quicker exit, always turning off heaters when they go to bed at night and never leaving cooking unattended.

“Almost 50 per cent of fires start in the kitchen – that’s a statistic that all of us should take note of,” he added.

FRNSW, in conjunction with community safety partner GIO, encourages all people to do the Home Fire Safety Audit online to improve fire safety in the home. Go to FRNSW Facebook site www.facebook/frnsw.