House fires deadly start to winter

TWO fatal house fires have signalled an ominous start to house fire season, the state’s firefighters have warned.

There have been 27 house fires since winter began on Friday, prompting firefighters to plead with people to be more wary of heaters and electrical equipment. Firefighters believe a heater placed too close to a lounge ignited a fire at a Cherrybrook home yesterday morning that killed 75-year-old widower Owen Connor.

Neighbours called emergency services when they noticed the home alight. In a separate house fire in Wallerawang, near Lithgow, yesterday morning an 80-year-old woman, known only as Pam to her neighbours, died.

It is believed a lit cigarette ignited the fire. Pam was found away from the bedroom, leading investigators to believe she tried to escape. Both victims lived alone and firefighters did not hear smoke alarms activated when they arrived.

”Firefighters brace themselves for winter because they know they’re going to be going out to more house fires and be confronted with tragedies like these,” said chief superintendent Rob McNeil from Fire and Rescue NSW.

On average, two thirds of house-fire deaths occur between May and September. Last year, that figure was 80 per cent. The most common causes of fatal home fires are heaters, smoking and electrical equipment such as driers and electric blankets.

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