How to prevent fires in your home

We all want to protect our home from potential harm and yet, preventable house fires are one of the leading cause of home claims. There were almost 350 Apia house fire claims lodged in the last 13 months (October 2022 – October 2023 ).

We've also seen an increase in the damage caused by house fires 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, learn the most common reasons for a house fire to help you prevent one on your property.

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What causes house fires?

Unattended cooking equipment

Avoid leaving your kitchen while cooking, as unattended pots and pans can quickly overheat and start a fire. Once you’re done, double check that the stove or oven is turned off.

Flammable items like tea towels, oven mitts and wooden utensils should be kept at a safe distance from hot surfaces.

Outdoor BBQs

Backyard barbecues are a great way to spend time with friends and family. But gas bottles can pose a major fire risk if incorrectly connected to your barbecue. Regularly check and maintain your barbecue's fittings and connections and remember to turn off the gas bottle when your barbecue is not in use.

Poor quality phone chargers

Buying a cheaper, non-branded charger for your smartphone may seem like a good idea, but these chargers often don’t deliver the correct voltage to your phone and are made using substandard materials. This can increase the risk of electrocution or the phone charger catching fire. Instead, consider purchasing a phone charger from reputable stores or official brands.

Remember also to avoid overloading your power points and power boards by charging too many devices at the same time as this can cause a fire.

Household appliances

Most households have a variety of electrical appliances, but many don’t get regularly serviced or replaced when they start malfunctioning. Common appliances that may cause a fire include:

  • dishwashers
  • toasters
  • kettles
  • fridges
  • washing machines, and
  • dryers.

Dryers especially may ignite if the lint builds up in the lint trap so refer to the user manual when cleaning out your dryer’s lint trap.

If you’re heading to bed or going out, avoid turning on the dryer, washing machine or dishwasher to reduce the chances of a fire while the appliance is unattended. Consider regularly checking the wires of your electrical appliances for damage and unplugging any that are not in use.

Storage in garages and sheds

House fires often start in garages or sheds as it’s a common place to store flammable liquids and lithium-battery powered items. Many garages and sheds also don’t have a heat or smoke alarms, so you may want to consider installing one to alert you to a potential a fire.

Lithium battery powered items

Lithium-ion batteries are found in many common electronic devices, such as:

  • e-scooters
  • e-bikes
  • power tools
  • smartphones, tablets, and
  • laptops.

Incorrectly storing, charging and disposing of the batteries in these devices can pose a serious fire risk. Lithium batteries can also increase the intensity of fires and cause it to spread faster around your home.

Remember to follow the manufacturer's instructions for storing and charging your devices to avoid potential fires.

Incorrectly stored flammable liquids and chemicals

Flammable liquids such as petrol or methylated spirits can catch fire if kept near a heat source and some pool chemicals can explode if stored incorrectly. Always store these chemicals in a cool, dry place away from exposure to moisture and heat.

Christmas and fairy lights

Decorating your home with festive lights is one of the easiest ways to get into the holiday spirit. However, leaving Christmas lights on for extended periods can lead to overheating and potentially a fire. Remember to switch off your decorative lights if you’re leaving home or before heading to bed.

Candles, cigarettes and e-cigarettes

Open flames, such as candles or lighters, can easily start a fire so keep them away from children, pets and flammable materials, like books or curtains. Put out candles once you leave the room.

If using e-cigarettes or vapes, charge and store them carefully for they contain lithium powered batteries which are extremely flammable. For traditional cigarettes, use deep ashtrays and avoid smoking in bed as you could fall asleep and set fire to the bedding.

Leaving gas on when going on vacation

If you're heading overseas or on your next road trip, consider turning off your gas supply safely to help prevent any potential gas leaks while you're away.

Keep your home insurance up to date

We know how important it is to protect your home against everyday events and natural hazards. That’s why all Apia Home Insurance policies include cover for loss or damage as a result of fire and bushfire* as well as malicious damage and theft.

Limits, conditions and exclusions apply, read the PDS for full details about what is and is not covered.

We also offer cover for:

  • temporary accommodation, including utility costs, for you and your pets if your home is damaged and cannot be lived in,
  • replacement of your plants, trees and garden beds, and
  • environmental improvements, such as a rainwater tank or solar system, if your home is severely damaged and did not previously have environmental equipment.^

We also provide a lifetime guarantee on home repairs or rebuilds where we authorise, arrange and pay the builder or repairer directly for their work. For the full details including exclusions, please read the PDS.

So check that the cover you have in place is suitable for your home and your contents. If you have an Apia insurance policy you can and update your insurance policy details via the Apia Online Services or by calling 13 50 50.

Review and update my policy

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* We do not insure 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.

Australian Pensioners Insurance Agency Pty LtdABN 14 099 650 996 is an authorised representative of AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807, the product issuer. Read the Product Disclosure Statement before buying this insurance. Go to for a copy. The Target Market Determination is also available.

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.