Maintaining a home
How to prevent fires in your home
14 November 2023
Preventable house fires are one of the leading causes of home insurance claims. At Suncorp Insurance we've found that 320 house fire claims were lodged in the last 13 months (October 2022 – October 2023).
We've also observed an increase in the severity of house fire claims due to:
- a rising popularity of open-plan home designs
- building materials that are more flammable, and
- an increase in household appliances with lithium batteries.
So whether you're a homeowner, renter or landlord, you could prevent a house fire at your property by learning some of the most common causes below.
Common causes of house fires
Unattended cooking equipment
Unattended pots and pans can easily overheat and start a fire, so always keep an eye on your cooking. And be sure to double check that the stove or oven is turned off when you're done.
Keep flammable items like oven mitts, wooden utensils or tea towels at a safe distance from hot surfaces.
Who doesn't love a good backyard BBQ? But gas bottles incorrectly connected to BBQs can pose a serious fire risk, so regularly check and maintain your BBQ's fittings and connections.
Also remember to turn off the gas bottle when your BBQ is not in use.
Cheap phone chargers
While it may be tempting to buy non-branded, cheap chargers for your smartphone, these are often not made with the correct materials to handle the amps your phone requires for charging. This can increase the risk of electrocution or the phone charger catching fire. Consider purchasing phone chargers from official stores or brands compatible with your smartphone.
It’s also important to avoid overloading your power points and power boards by charging too many devices simultaneously as this could also cause a fire.
Electrical appliances may cause fires when the equipment hasn’t been serviced as required or is faulty and hasn’t been repaired or replaced. Some common appliances that can start a fire include:
- washing machines, and
Dryers in particular can ignite due to accumulated lint, so refer to the user manual when cleaning out your dryer’s lint trap.
Avoid turning on the dishwasher, washing machine or dryer if you’re heading out or going to bed to avoid a potential fire while the appliance is unattended. Unplug your other household devices when they’re not in use and inspect wires regularly for damage.
Storage in garages and sheds
Many house fires start in garages or sheds as it’s a common place for homeowners to store lithium battery-powered items and flammable liquids. Also, most garages don’t have smoke or heat alarms, so you may want to consider installing one to help you detect a potential fire before it spreads around your home.
Lithium battery powered items
Lithium-ion batteries can be found in many common devices we use today, including:
- smartphones and tablets
- e-bikes, and
- power tools.
While convenient, these items can pose a fire risk if they’re not stored, charged or disposed of correctly. Lithium batteries can also help spread or increase the intensity of house fires.
Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for charging and storing your devices to prevent any potential fires.
Incorrect storage of flammable liquids and chemicals
Some pool chemicals can react explosively when stored incorrectly, and flammable liquids such as petrol or methylated spirits can catch fire if kept near a heat source. Always store these chemicals in a cool, dry place and away from exposure to heat or moisture.
Christmas and fairy lights
While Christmas lights or fairy lights can add a festive touch to your home, leaving them on for extended periods can lead to overheating and potentially a fire. Always remember to switch off your Christmas lights when not in use or before heading to bed.
Candles, cigarettes and e-cigarettes
The use of candles in homes also creates a higher risk of house fires. Ensure candles and lighters are kept out of reach from children and pets, and away from flammable materials, such as books or curtains. Remember to put out candles when you leave the room.
Be cautious if using e-cigarettes or vapes as they contain lithium powered batteries which are highly flammable. Use deep ashtrays for traditional cigarettes and avoid smoking in bed as the lit cigarette can set fire to the bedding.
Leaving gas on when going on vacation
If you're planning on going away for an extended period of time consider turning off your gas supply safely to prevent any potential gas leaks while you're away.
Keep your home insurance up to date
All Suncorp Home Insurance policies automatically include cover for loss or damage as a result of fire and bushfire as well as storm, flood, hail and theft.* Limits, conditions and exclusions apply, so read the PDS for full details about what is and is not covered.
- temporary accommodation, including utility costs, for you and your pets if your home is damaged and cannot be lived in
- replacement of damaged contents ‘new for old’ if items cannot be repaired or repair costs exceed replacement costs, and
- replacement of your plants, trees and garden beds.^
Where Suncorp Insurance repairs or rebuilds the home, we guarantee the quality of workmanship of that work for the lifetime of the home if we authorise, arrange and pay the builder or repairer directly for this work. For the full details including exclusions, please read the PDS.
- Does my home insurance cover fire damage?
- How to prepare for a bushfire from the start of building your home
- How to protect your home from extreme weather
*We do not insure you for bushfire, storm, storm surge, flood or tsunami in the first 72 hours of your policy. Very limited exceptions apply.
^ Limits, conditions and exclusions apply, read the PDS for full details about what is and is not covered.
Insurance issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 trading as Suncorp Insurance. Read the Product Disclosure Statement before buying this insurance. Go to suncorp.com.au for a copy. The Target Market Determination is also available. This advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situation or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it.
The information is intended to be of general nature only. Subject to any rights you may have under any law, we do not accept any legal responsibility for any loss or damage, including loss of business or profits or any other indirect loss, incurred as a result of reliance upon the information. Please make your own enquiries.