Illawarra home owners are being warned to be vigilant during the summer months as avoidable home fires take their toll on emergency services.

With 1750 kitchen fires last year in homes across NSW, emergency service workers are seeing a rise in tragedies that could have been avoided.

Clinical Psychologist Orietta Worthington stressed the implications of exposure to such traumatic events and the toll PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) can take on emergency personnel.

“There is heightened risk for health conditions like cardiovascular disease, deficiencies in immune system and chronic pain,” she said.

“Around 20 per cent of people who experience a traumatic event may develop PTSD, making it one of the most common anxiety disorders.

“The fact that they’re (fire personnel) exposed to traumatic situations throughout their careers, increases the chances of developing PTSD symptoms.”

An estimated 10 per cent of emergency service workers suffer from PTSD in their lifetime with rates of suicide on the rise.

Recruit Retained Fire Fighter Gerard Furst has begun advocating for shared public alertness and described the protocol after encountering the effects of dangerous situations first hand.

“We are required to attend emergencies such as car accidents as well as fires, both of which can involve dead and/or disfigured people,” he said.

“It’s after those incidents when doubts are likely to creep in, especially the ‘what ifs’, that’s when the debriefing comes in.

“You immediately have someone to talk to who knows exactly what’s going on.”

The common causes identified include neglecting cooking procedures, overloading power circuits and entering burning buildings to retrieve property.

Wollongong Fire Department’s Mathew Sigmund issued a message of safety and awareness for house fires within NSW earlier this week.

In an emergency call 000 and wait for further instructions from emergency services.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any challenges with mental health call 1300 22 4636 or visit