House fires cost millions of dollars and injure dozens in the ACT every year.
But Canberra's leading cause of house fires boils down to inattentiveness, one of the territory's top firefighters says.
Cooking has overtaken electronics as the leading cause of house fires in the ACT.
More than a quarter of house fires in the last financial year started in the kitchen, ACT Fire & Rescue superintendent Pat Jones said.
An estimated $6 million went up in smoke in the ACT last financial year, the territory's firefighters said.
Fire crews attended the equivalent of one house fire nearly every three days in Canberra from July 2014 until July 2015.
These blazes injured 13 civilians and and two firefighters.
An estimated $120 million in damage has been caused by close to 1700 structure fires since the 2003 bushfires. More than a fifth of those started in a kitchen.
Ten people have died with one firefighter injured for every 11 civilians in the fires.
While these kind of house fires are largely preventable, superintendent Jones said modern building construction and furnishings meant flames engulfed houses more rapidly, making it more difficult to save them.
"One of the things we're finding is modern building furnishings, because a lot of them are plastic or hydrocarbon-based, the fuel load in buildings has increased, so we're seeing fires that once we could contain to a room of origin spreading," he said.
"It means firefighters spend a lot more time doing what we call defensive operations where we're having to stay outside the building, where in previous decades we could do a lot more offensive firefighting where we could actually get into the building."
As a Churchill fellow who authored a report on this exact topic two decades ago, superintendent Jones believed the key to preventing these fires was education.
Unlike their NSW counterparts, the ACT fire service does not target particular geographic areas or demographics for these education campaigns as in their experience, fire doesn't discriminate.
"The key message for us is 'don't stop looking while you're cooking'. It doesn't matter where you live, usually it's attention to cooking [which stops] the potential for fire to spread," superintendent Jones said.
"We've done a considerable amount of work on a number of education campaigns over the last four to five years. The last one was based on 'looking while you're cooking', which was used for a number of years and we did see a slight decrease in the number of kitchen fires while we were using that community message."
And as a former electrician who installed fire alarm systems, he said the importance of having a working fire alarm cannot be overstated.
"We always tell people having a working smoke alarm is your best line of defence. Most of the time we do find from occupants of buildings that smoke alarms did alert them to the fact that there was a fire in the premises," he said.
To prevent a kitchen fire, firefighters recommend:
- Never leave cooking unattended
- Ensure pot handles are facing inwards
- Ensure stoves, ovens and fans are grease and fat free
- Place a lid on a pot if it catches fire - do not pick it up or carry
- Do not wear clothing with loose-fitting sleeves
- Ensure you have a working fire alarm, as well as a fire extinguisher and blanket handy