Just a few days out from the official start to winter, Taree Fire Station Commander Peter Willard has issued a timely warning for residents about fire dangers in the home.
As the nights get cooler, the propensity to switch on the electric blanket, light up the fireplace or set up an outdoor heater grows. But with great warmth comes great responsibility.
Commander Willard said the number one safety measure to protect your family and home is a working smoke alarm.
"A working smoke alarm will save your life," Commander Willard stressed.
You won't smell smoke while you're asleep. That's why it's imperative to have a smoke alarm on each level of the home between bedrooms and living areas.
Smoke alarms have a lifespan of 10 years but it's important to test them regularly.
It's also wise to draw up an escape plan and discuss it with the family. It's best to know and record two safe ways out of each room and practice the plan as often as possible.
Fire and Rescue NSW attends to about 4500 residential fires each year. Half of these fires start in the kitchen, mostly due to unattended cooking.
That's why it's important to turn off the stove if you leave the kitchen, never put anything metallic in the microwave and don't cook under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Pot handles should be turned inwards to avoid being knocked or grabbed by children.
Ovens and rangehoods must be kept clean as excess grease and fat can ignite in a fire.
You've got to be savvy before lighting up the fireplace for the first time. Clean your chimney and have it serviced prior to use.
Fire screens should always be in place and ensure the wood pile is at least one metre away from the fire.
Matches and lighters should always be out of reach of children. The lint filter of clothes dryer should be cleaned after ever use.
Assess electric and gas heaters for faults or frayed/damaged cords before use. Heaters should be plugged directly into wall sockets.
Don't overload powerboards and ensure everything is kept one metre from the heater.
Portable heaters should be on a level surface, well ventilated and positioned away from awnings and other combustible material.
Commander Willard warned about outdoor heating and cooking equipment inside the home, including those that use heat beads or LPG as a fuel source.
The equipment is not suitable for indoors and can lead to a build up of lethal gases.
Electric blankets should be tested for abnormalities and damaged cords/controls.
"Make sure it's working properly before you use it," Commander Willard said.
"Never sleep with your electric blanket on when you go to bed, it's just there to warm up the bed before you get into it."
Check wheat bags for signs of wear, tear or scorching.
They can easily ignite or burn if overheated and need to be completely cool on a non-combustible surface before storage.
In any fire emergency get out, stay out and call triple zero (000).
"If you have any concerns about your smoke alarm or any concerns about fire safety in your home, call us here at Taree Fire Station on 6551 5246 and we'll do a home fire safety check with you," Commander Willard added.
"We'll talk about your home escape plan, and we'll make sure you understand to keep a metre from the heater and don't use it to dry your clothes."
For more information, visit the Fire and Rescue NSW website.