Australia’s Over 50s at risk of home fires this winter

  • One in five Victorians Over 50 fail to check safety of their heating equipment

A third (35%) of Australia’s Over 50s that have experienced a house fire say it was caused by a faulty appliance or accident with an open flame or appliance, according to new research by Apia, the leading national insurer for Over 50s.

Worryingly, Apia’s research found that more than one in five (22%) Victorians aged Over 50 don’t even bother to check the safety of their heating appliances and equipment at the beginning of winter. 

Angela Wilkinson, Apia spokesperson, commented: “During winter we tend to see a spike in house fires.”

“Every winter we see the devastating impact of house fires on older Australians and what’s sad is that many of them could have been easily avoided if proper precautions were taken.

“Apia is urging all Over 50s to keep fire safety in mind when heating homes this winter, and to always take the time to check heating equipment. If appliances appear to be faulty or not working get a professional to inspect that they are safe to use or look at getting them replaced.” Ms Wilkinson added.

Apia’s research found some other alarming behaviours and attitudes around heating the home.

The research revealed that a third (31%) of Victorians Over 50 have slept with the heater on, one in five (22%) say they will leave the heater on when they head out, and one in ten (10%) have dried clothes on the heater.

“Placing clothing or other household items that can burn too close to heating equipment is asking for trouble, as is leaving the room or house while equipment is left on or fires are burning. People don’t realise that complacency around fires and heating equipment could cost them not only their house and possessions, but in some circumstances can lead to serious injury or death.”

Common causes of house fires seen by Apia include:

  • Electric blankets - these should be switched off while sleeping or when leaving the house. Blankets should also be inspected carefully for wear and tear at the beginning of winter. 
  • Burning candles left unattended or left too close to flammable items such as books or curtains can easily burst into flames. Always place a candle on a fireproof plate and remember to blow it out before leaving the room.
  • Electric heaters either have faulty wiring, or are left too close to lounges, curtains or other furnishings. Portable heaters should be placed at least a metre away from anything flammable.
  • Sparks and embers from open fires can float out of the fireplace after you’ve gone to bed. Never leave an open fire burning when you go to bed or leave the house and always place a mesh guard in front of open fires.
  • Cooking left unattended can cause a fire very easily so it’s important to always stay in the room, turn off the stove if you have to leave or ask someone to watch the cooking.


About the research

Apia’s research is based on an independent internet survey conducted by Newspoll of 3,283 Australians, 18 years of age and older in March 2015. Data was collected in line with ISO 20252 – Market, Social and Opinion Research and has been weighted with current ABS population demographics to ensure any extrapolation of results is representative of age and gender on a regional, state and national basis.

Apia is a specialist insurance provider for people aged over 50. Providing a wide range of home and contents, car, caravan, motor home, boat and life insurance solutions tailored to the over 50s life stage. Apia also provides Private Health Insurance, underwritten by nib, offering a range of Hospital and Extras covers specifically tailored to meet the varying and individual needs of Australians aged over 50. For more information on Apia visit