Warning: Firefighter Greg Mantle with Newcastle station officer Peter Messenger are among those from Fire and Rescue NSW urging the public to be aware of how easily residential fires can start in the kitchen. Picture: Nick BielbyIt can take only three minutes for a kitchen fire to turn into a blaze that can leave a home in ruins, a Newcastle firefighter says.

Hunter residents are being urged to take care in the kitchen after new figures revealed the number of house fires that started in kitchens this year tracking to be close to last year’s numbers.

In 2016, fire crews across the region were called to 361 fires at premises where a flame or heat source had been left unattended in the kitchen.

There have been 146 of these types of fires so far this year.

Newcastle had the highest number of incidents in the regionlast year –99 compared with 34 so far in 2017.

Lake Macquarie had 86 kitchen fires in 2016, compared with 43 in the six months to June.

Wyong has recorded 26 kitchen fires so far this year, after it registered 67 in 2016.

So Fire and Rescue NSW is promoting its Keep Looking When Cooking campaign to spread awareness about how easilykitchen fires can take hold.

The emergency service branch has developed a mini-magazine that is being distributed to cafes, bars and community centres across the state to promote kitchen safety.

The mini magazine will also feature recipes submitted by firefighters, across a variety of cuisines.

Newcastle station officer Peter Messenger said almost half of all house fires started in the kitchen.

“Usually when people turn away from the stove top, get distracted by their television or phone or simply fall asleep,” he said.

“It can literally take just three minutes for a fire to take hold, but only seconds to prevent one so it’s important to be vigilant.

“Kitchen fires represent 45 per centof all residential fires and 34 per centof injuries, with a flame or heat source being left unattendedbeing the most common cause contributing to kitchen fires.

“Hundreds of injuries happen every year due to kitchen fires, so we’re urging people to keep looking when cooking and avoid cooking catastrophes this winter.”

According to Fire and Rescue NSW figures, firefighters are calls to about 3865 house fires across the state each year. Kitchen fires are the most common cause of residential blazes.

An average of 21 people die and 502 people are injured in house fires each year.

Fire and Rescue NSWcommunity safety and research Chief Superintendent Jeremy Fewtrell said firefighters also saw a 10 per cent rise in the number of fires that started in bedrooms or lounge rooms during winter.

“We want to remind people to be careful when using heaters and remember to keep everything in the house a metre from the heater,” he said.