A Wairarapa fire officer is urging care this winter as statistics show there was a house fire every week last year in Wairarapa on average.

There were 52 house fires last year -- an annual figure which has largely remained the same since 2012.

Masterton fire station officer Mike Cornford said there was a good understanding of fire prevention throughout the region, but people must be wary of common winter fire causes in the coming months.

"If you're drying your clothes in the winter, keep all clothes at least a metre away from the fire or heater, especially if there are children or animals around as things can be knocked over," Mr Cornford said.


He also said fire ashes and embers could stay warm enough to start another fire for up to four days, so they should be put into a steel container away from the house -- certainly not a cardboard box or rubbish bag -- and even hosed down.

He said having working smoke alarms was extremely important -- and so was having a plan to escape from a household fire.

"It's actually about having good practices in place if there is a fire in your house and what to do -- get out of the house, call 111, stay outside and don't go back in."

Fire Service national adviser Todd O'Donoghue said the fire safety and prevention message was widely understood but there were some people who did not prepare themselves for a fire event.

"There is a lot of the public who the message is not getting to, and they're getting complacent thinking it will never happen to them. We need people to realise that the risk of fire is actually very real, and that they need to take some responsibility for it," he said.

Mr O'Donoghue said cooking was the leading cause of house fires, followed by electrical faults.

"The single biggest cause of house fires still remains with cooking being left unattended, or people trying to cook while they're under the influence of alcohol," Mr O'Donoghue said.

Nationwide, the number of residential fires had risen over the last five years, but has remained stable at about 3200 in each of the last three years. There were 17 fatalities from house fires last year.

The Fire Service recommends people install photo-electric smoke alarms with a built-in long-life battery that can last up to 10 years.