A fire can take hold in three minutes, yet it only takes seconds to prevent one.
This is the message from Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) which is urging the public to take just a few precautionary steps to offset the damage and possible tragedy house fires can inflict.
Each winter in NSW more than 1100 home fires occur, resulting in about 100 fire-related injuries.
With many of these incidents being preventable, FRNSW has prepared a set of guidelines to assist residents in making their homes as fire-safe as possible.
Topping the list of safety measures is having working smoke alarms installed in every home.
"smoke is more dangerous than the actual heat of the fire. The other really important thing is once you're out you must stay out. Never re-enter a burning building"- Taree Fire Station Commander, Peter Willard
"Have a working smoke alarm. Their only purpose is to wake you up because when you're asleep you'll have no sense of smell, and the carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide will actually put you into a deeper sleep," Taree Fire Station commander, Peter Willard said.
"And smoke is more dangerous than the actual heat of the fire.
"The other really important thing is once you're out you must stay out. Never re-enter a burning building."
The risk of a fatality in a home fire is halved if there is a working smoke alarm.
This statistic has been tragically illustrated with data for 2022 indicating that 48 per cent of homes that had residential fires did not have a working smoke alarm, with 20 per cent having no smoke alarm at all.
Another home safety measure FRNSW wants to see adopted is for residents to have a formulated escape plan. This involves households having a set plan for removing every member from a burning home, knowing two safe ways out of every room, while making sure windows and doors are unobstructed and can be opened quickly if necessary.
They also recommended practising the escape plan with the whole household, including pets.
"The time to think about it is not after the alarm is raised, it's before the alarm is raised," Commander Willard said.
"Talk about it with your family. Understand that the power might go out so the light won't come on next to your bed. It'll be dark so maybe have a torch in your bedside drawer."
Further complicating the home fire safety issue has been a recent spate of incidents caused by people using outdoor heating methods inside the home. One such instance occurred when charcoal heat beads were used to heat a home. Those present were hospitalised suffering carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms.
FRNSW warns that gas appliances, such as patio heaters and gas or charcoal-based barbecues, should not be used indoors as these appliances require ventilation to allow the carbon monoxide to escape.
With so many preventable causes for house fires, the patience of firefighters and other first responders must surely be tested, as they encounter the results of common oversights leading to deadly consequences.
"It's just devastating, for the families it occurs to, but also for the firefighters who have to attend these incidents year after year," Commander Willard said.
"It's what we're trained to do, it's what we do, but it's a devastating feeling when you know you've pulled them out and it's too late.
"You can't escape that, emotionally, regardless of whatever level of training you have.
"And it stays with you for your life".
Anyone in the Taree area wishing to arrange a home fire safety visit can call Taree Fire Station on 6551 5246.
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