Blaze began on stove

Charred: This West Wollongong home was badly damaged by fire on Tuesday. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

Charred: This West Wollongong home was badly damaged by fire on Tuesday. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

Firefighters have renewed a plea for people to take steps to minimise the risk of house fires during winter, following a blaze that gutted a West Wollongong unit on Tuesday.

The fire broke out in the Highway Avenue home just after 11am. A woman and child escaped the flames, which took fire crews 20 minutes to extinguish.

The blaze was caused by cooking left unattended on the stove.

Acting Superintendent Brendan Cox, zone commander for the Illawarra, said there were precautions people could take to reduce the chance of a fire breaking out in their home.

"Every day firefighters attend fires that could have been prevented with a few simple steps and precautions and, sadly, this includes fires where people have been killed or seriously injured.

"Winter is the worst time of the year for home fires, with more than 60 per cent occurring between May and September," he said.

"On average, NSW firefighters attend 102 house fires a week during the winter months."

Supt Cox said turning off heaters and electric blankets before going to sleep, keeping flammable materials away from heaters, not overloading power points and never leaving cooking or other open-flame materials, such as candles, unattended would reduce the risk of fire.

People should also prepare an escape plan, with two exits from every room, and check batteries in smoke alarms. Fire and Rescue NSW and GIO provide a checklist suggesting ways to improve home fire safety at homefiresafety audit.com.au.

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