Spike in fatal domestic fire accidents

Fire pouring out of a bedroom door

David Toscano

Posted November 24, 2021

Domestic fire deaths and claims are increasing. Here is what you need to know to mitigate the risk of tragedy in your home. 
Faulty appliances and cooking accidents were the leading causes of a spike in fatal domestic fire claims in Financial Year 2021, new RACV Home Insurance data reveals. 

In a period marked by lengthy stay at home orders, total fire claims costs increased compared to Financial Year 2020.

Underlining the devastating financial impact of fire in the home, RACV Home Insurance holders made 78 large domestic fire claims where the cost for damages exceeded $100,000 in Financial Year 2021. 

Common reasons for the increase in domestic fire claims included:

  • Faulty appliances (electric blankets, batteries in charge, ovens in use, clothes dryers) – 18 claims 
  • Cooking accidents – 6 claims 
  • Cigarette butts – 5 claims
  • Improper Garage storage (undetermined)

Tragically, the data also revealed a significant rise in domestic fire claims involving a fatality. 

RACV Head of Home Insurance Kirsty Hayes says the increase in domestic fire claims and fatalities highlights the importance of being vigilant to the constant danger of fire in the home. 
“The tragic loss of life and property from domestic fires can largely be avoided through extra care with daily tasks and regular home maintenance,” Hayes says. 
“Periodic checks of appliances, maintaining a tidy home and garage, and giving everyday tasks extra attention and concentration, can go a long way to mitigating the risk of fire in the home.” 
Lifestyle factors stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic, such as increased working from home, are also presenting new fire threats for Victorian households. 
“With the increased use of computer, office and entertainment equipment in the home, it’s important that Victorians are mindful of growing fire safety hazards in the home, such as overloaded power boards.” 
As the festive season approaches, Hayes reminds Victorians to ensure that they have adequate home insurance coverage to protect their buildings and contents in the event of something unexpected, such as fire. 

How to mitigate the risk of fire in your home

Ensure your smoke alarms work

Check your smoke alarms monthly by pressing the test button until the alarm sounds. You may need to replace the alarm battery annually unless they are lithium, which can have a lifespan of around 10 years.

Ensure that every bedroom and living area is fitted with a smoke alarm, and that all alarms are interconnected. if you're unsure, leave it to qualified professionals to supply and install smoke alarms in your home.

Check the safety of appliances

If you are in any doubt about the safety of an electrical appliance such as those commonly used in the kitchen or bathroom, dispose of it, and replace it with a brand new one.

Alternatively, a licensed electrician can test and tag your appliances to ensure they do not present a fire threat. This should be done once a year to ensure they are in proper working order.  

Concentrate when operating cooking equipment  

Never take your eyes away from the stove tops while cooking and always ensure the gas or electricity is completely off before walking away. Be extra vigilant when cooking around children. 

pan on stove with flames

Always pay attention when cooking. Image: Getty.

Reduce clutter in the home and garage

Dispose of all unnecessary items in your home and garage that are highly flammable, particularly cardboard boxes and paperwork that can quickly fuel a fire. 

Dispose of cigarette butts responsibly  

Cigarette butts can easily ignite nearby papers or flammable objects, causing major damage in a matter of minutes.

Always smoke outside of the home and ensure that you have completed extinguished the cigarette butt before disposing of it and walking away.

RACV Contents Insurance can help safeguard you from financial loss.
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Disclaimer: The information provided is general advice only. Before making any decisions please consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations. For copies, visit racv.com.au. As distributor, RACV Insurance Services Pty Ltd AFS Licence No. 230039 receives commission for each policy sold or renewed. Product(s) issued by Insurance Manufacturers of Australia Pty Ltd ABN 93 004 208 084 AFS Licence No. 227678.