8 August, 2017  

We’ve all done it, second guessed ourselves while leaving the home as to whether or not we have turned off an electrical or gas appliance.

Our homes are full of potential fire hazards year round, but the cooler months are by far the most dangerous for fires that originate in the home.

The months of July, August and September see a spike every year in home fire claims, according to data from RAC Insurance that looked at home fire claims from 2013 to 2016. 

The jump was significant, with a 19.5 per cent increase in the total number fire claims, compared to the rest of the year, lodged during the cooler months. 

“When people think of house fires, they usually associate them with houses being burnt during the summer bushfire season,” says RAC Home Claims Manager Glen Walker.

“However there are far more house fires in colder months and they can develop very quickly.” 

Causes of fires

gas stove lit

Walker says that many of the house fire claims that come through could have been prevented.

“Recently we responded to a claim where an old electric blanket caught on fire. The blanket was very old and should have been replaced years ago,” he says.

“Thankfully the occupant was able to escape but there was still $130,000 worth of damage caused to the home.”

Some of the most common causes of house fires during our chilly months include:

  • Flammable items too close  to heaters
  • Open fireplaces
  • Candles
  • Careless smoking
  • Unattended cooking
  • Electric blankets
  • Appliances left on  and unattended
  • Overloaded power boards and piggy backing double adapters

Basic preventative steps could potentially save you a lot of personal and financial heartache, says Walker.

“Prevention is key. A few simple steps like testing your smoke alarms monthly and changing the batteries every year will only take you a few minutes.”

“You can also protect yourself by unplugging appliances, not ‘piggy backing’ electrical plugs and keeping your power-boards and adaptors dust-free. Even dust that has accumulated in unused sockets on a power-board can become a fire hazard.”

“Investing in a fire blanket or fire extinguisher can also make your home safer. However in the event of a fire, we recommend you get out fast and call for help. Fires can spread dangerously fast and your safety should come first.” 

Making a claim

Walker says the average cost of rebuilding a home after a house fire is around $350,000, while replacing lost contents averages around $120,000, with the amount increasing significantly depending on the style of home and belongings.

Not only can a house fire destroy your valuable possessions, it can destroy important documentation you need to support your claim, like paper receipts and printed photos of valuable items. This can make your claim difficult.

Walker says two simple steps can make life easier should you find yourself needing to make a claim after a house fire.

First, check regularly to make sure you have the right level of home insurance cover to make sure that should a house fire happen, you are covered for your full replacement costs.

Secondly, when you purchase new items for your home, scan or take digital photos of your receipts and valuables and store them on a cloud based storage system, giving you a digital back-up in case of a house fire.

“If you’ve done renovations or have bought some big ticket items, recheck the level of insurance cover you have. It’s easy to forget that the value of your home and contents may have gone up, in terms of replacing like for like if something does go wrong.

“You don’t want to add to the stress of having a fire by finding yourself out of pocket,” he says. 

Use our handy building and contents insurance calculators to estimate the value of your home and its contents. 

For more tips, view our preventing house fires fact sheet.