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MFB Christmas Fire Safety

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22 Dec 2011
As the Christmas holiday season gets into full swing new figures show it’s also the season for burns and scalds.

Burn injury data from the Victorian Adult Burns Service (VABS) at The Alfred Hospital shows over the last two Summer seasons there were 139 injuries severe enough to require specialist burns service attention.. This is not representative of all burn injuries, with only  5 – 10% of burn injuries in Victoria  requiring transfer to the specialist burn service each year.  

Of the injuries seen at the Victorian Adult Burns Service, 60% were caused by flame. 33% of these injuries involved campfires/bonfires and burning off and almost 20% involved gas or gas bottles. Most injuries occur in the home with MFB data revealing, 30% of house fires starting in the kitchen..

The high-risk groups are the 20 - 29 year old age group and are predominantly male composing 75% of admissions to the service

“Christmas is a season when we spend a lot of time in the kitchen, around the barbecue and often around an open fire,” said MFB Chief Fire Officer, Shane Wright.

“MFB and CFA want all people using barbecues, open fires and cooking in the kitchen this Christmas to take care and ensure all appliances are working and safe to use”

CFA Chief Officer Euan Ferguson said over the Christmas and New Year period, fire-fighters often attend a number of incidents where people are seriously injured while using barbecues or campfires.

“Most accidents could be avoided if a little more care was taken, especially with the use and maintenance of gas barbecues,” Mr Ferguson said.
“We don’t want to see a Christmas or New Year celebration BBQ or campfire become a total nightmare. My message to people is that these accidents can and do happen and you need to take better precautions to protect yourself and your family.”
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Director of the Victorian Adult Burns Service at The Alfred Dr Heather Cleland reiterated the safety messages of Victorian fire services.

She adds, “The injuries seen at The Alfred involving BBQs and campfires usually have occurred when a flammable substance has been used to ignite the fire that caused the injury. Of all flame related burn injuries admitted to burns services across Australia and New Zealand 52 percent had some sort of accelerant used to ignite the fire.

People need to be cautious of these substances, use them in the manner they are intended and use them safely and responsibly to reduce injuries.”

Barbecue SafetyTips
• Total fire Ban days prohibit the use of outside flames under some circumstances, if in doubt call the Victorian Bushfire Information Line on 1800 240 667
• Check the LP gas cylinder on your barbecue before you turn it on. A cylinder must not be refilled if it hasn’t been tested for more than 10 years or if the cylinder has been damaged. You can exchange LP gas cylinders at a reputable supplier
• Check the hose to make sure it has not perished
• Check the connections to make sure they are tight and that the O rings are in good condition and have not cracked or split
• Use your barbecue in a clear space. Never use it indoors or in a confined area and ensure there is adequate clearance
• Cook with barbecue utensils and wear an apron to protect from hot fat.  Remove excess fat from the barbecue after each use to prevent fires
• Do not use barbecues in windy conditions as the burners may blow out, risking a gas leak. Barbecues don’t have a safety device to turn off the gas if the flame goes out
• If a fire occurs, don’t try to extinguish the flames if is not safe. Turn off the gas at the meter or cylinder but only if you can do so safely
• Transport barbecue gas cylinders upright

Home Fire Safety
• Never leave cooking, heaters, open fires or candles unattended
• Don't overload power boards
• Keep electrical appliances in good working order
• Ensure cigarette ash and butts are extinguished. Never smoke in bed
• Store all matches and lighters out of reach of children
• By law every home must have at least one working smoke alarm installed on each level of the house. Clean and test your alarms regularly and make sure they are working
• Install a fire extinguisher and fire blanket and know how to use them
• Have a home fire escape plan and practise it regularly
• Never deadlock yourself inside the house. Keep keys in the lock when you are at home.

Open Fires – including bonfires, brassieres, pit fires, Webber barbecues, spit roasts, pizza ovens etc.
• Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose nearby - in case of emergencies
• Don’t leave an open fire unattended
• Keep children and pets away from the open fire
• Don't burn aerosols, tyres, canisters or anything containing foam or paint as many produce toxic fumes and some containers will explode, causing injury
• Don’t throw any fireworks into the fire
• Only burn dry material not damp, which causes more smoke
• Open fire should always be in a properly constructed unit and at least 3 metres away from sheds, fences and trees
• Check there are no cables - like telephone lines - above the fire
• Once the fire has died down, spray the embers with water to stop it reigniting.

Home fire survival rules
• Keep emergency numbers near the phone
• Ensure emergency numbers are keyed into all the phones in your home.
• Dial 000 (Triple Zero) for fire, police and ambulance.
• Never go back inside a burning house for any reason

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The Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authority Council (AFAC) recommends monthly testing of smoke alarms to ensure they are working correctly.

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