Be alarmed - winter is dangerous

FIREFIGHTERS on the Coffs Coast have a simple message this winter don't become a fire victim.

"This is our busiest time of year," Coffs Harbour Fire Station officer-in-charge, Nat La Macchia, said.

"Because it's winter, more electricity and more gas is being used for heating, cooking and drying. So it follows there's an increased risk of fire.

"Last year in NSW, 30 per cent of all residential fires occurred between June and August.

"The most common causes of household fires are accidents involving heaters and open fires, lint left in clothes dryers, faulty electric blankets, overloaded power supplies and cooking left unattended."

Mr La Macchia said smoke alarms not only saved lives, they were also compulsory in all NSW homes.

"As part of a service to elderly residents in our community, we are able to change their smoke alarm batteries for them," he said.

Only last week, an Emerald Beach family was forced to flee their burning home. Smoke alarms had alerted them to the danger.

Rural Fire Service (RFS) manager for the Mid North Coast, Warwick Roche, urged residents to take extreme care with their electrical appliances, heaters and fireplaces.

"And if you haven't already done so, make sure you have a working smoke alarm," Mr Roche said.

He reminded people living in residential/urban areas of the Coffs Harbour and Bellingen local government areas they were not allowed to light fires in the open, a year-round ban which helps to reduce the fire threat as well as smoke pollution.

"If they are unsure, they should contact their council," he said.

"Even though landholders in rural areas don't need a permit to light a fire at this time of year, they still need to be careful.

"They must notify their neighbours and the RFS that they are intending to burn, so we know where burnoffs are.

"Across the North Coast, there have been a spate of fires where the property owner has lost control of a burnoff because they've misread the weather conditions.

"It is your responsibility to ensure a fire is kept safe.

"If you're in doubt, don't light it.

"If you are in any way uncertain, first check with your local brigade."

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