FIRE crews have issued a desperate plea ahead of Christmas after a string of house fires.
At least four homes have been severely damaged or destroyed since Sunday after fires broke out in Armidale, Gwabegar and Bingara.
Just yesterday a neighbour made an urgent call to triple-0 after he saw smoke billowing from a home in Claude St, Armidale.
Two Armidale Fire and Rescue NSW trucks rushed to the home and found it well alight just after 11am.
Inspector Rod Chetwynd said luckily no one was home at the time.
“They conducted a search and located a fire fairly well-advanced in the kitchen of the home,” he said.
“The firefighters were very quick to act and were able to contain the fire to the kitchen, however the rest of the house suffered significant smoke and heat damage.”
Preliminary investigations suggest the fire may have been sparked on or around the stove area.
Crews were still at the scene when a further fire alarm was raised, this time at a Werrina Cl home.
“There was one resident home at this house, but she managed to self-evacuate before the arrival of fire crews,” Inspector Chetwynd said.
“The quick action of the firefighters meant they could contain it to the garage, however a car in the garage was significantly damaged as well.”
Investigations into what sparked the blaze are ongoing, but an electrical fault could be to blame.
“The owners had reported problems with their electrical fuses in the past week,” Inspector Chetwynd said.
The flurry of fires has prompted an urgent warning from firefighters to be vigilant in the lead-up to Christmas.
Inspector Chetwynd said the combination of the festive period and the school holidays meant some locals could get too relaxed.
“Things like house fires don’t have a season, they can occur at any time,” he warned.
Candles, unsupervised children playing with lights and Christmas lights are common fire starters.
Residents are being urged to turn off electrical goods when not in use, get faulty appliances checked and ensure smoke alarms are in working order.