In the event of a bushfire, even if your plan is to leave, you should prepare your home to give it the best chance of survival. A well prepared and constructed house is more likely to survive a bushfire than an unprepared one.
If you live in or near bush, fire is a real risk to you and your family. Bushfires can start suddenly and without warning. People have been killed or seriously injured, and homes destroyed during bushfires. Even if you live in a metropolitan area near bushland, then bushfire is a real threat to you, your family and property.
There are three ways bushfires attack properties:
- Direct flame contact commonly occurs when houses are situated close to a fire hazard.
- Radiant heat is the energy emitted from the fire and attacks buildings by heating and igniting flammable objects. Windows are particularly vulnerable to radiant heat.
- Ember attack occurs before, during and after a fire front passes. Embers such as burning bark are carried by the wind and dropped away from the main fire front, creating spot fires.
Nearly all structural damage caused by a bushfire is due to ember attack. Embers can land in areas of vegetation or in the garden, next to leaf litter, under or in the gutters of the house and on wooden decks which, if not extinguished, can completely engulf the house.
Firefighters cannot defend every property and are unlikely to defend a poorly prepared property; remember their lives are at risk too.
Building Protection Zone
A Building Protection Zone (BPZ) is an area between a bushfire hazard and a building. In this zone fuel loads are minimised to reduce potential radiant heat levels, flame, ember and smoke attack. An adequate BPZ will provide sufficient space and safety for firefighters and other emergency services to perform bushfire suppression activities. Managing and reducing fuel
loads for a minimum of 20 metres around a building will increase its chances of survival from a bushfire. Create a BPZ, which has less than two tonne per hectare (t/ha) of fine fuel (<6 mm diameter for dead material and <3 mm diameter for live material) around your buildings and keep it maintained to this level.
- Create a minimum 20 metre building protection zone around your home and other buildings. This area needs to be cleared of all rubbish, long dry grass, bark and material that may catch fire.
- Prune lower branches (up to two metres off the ground) to stop a ground fire spreading into the canopy of the trees.
- Clear vegetation around your property to create a fire break, particularly the overhanging branches. Make sure you meet your local government’s firebreak requirements.
- Cut grass to less than 10 centimetres high and prune shrubs to remove dead material.
Firebreaks are used to stop the spread of a bushfire and are also used by firefighters to gain access around all areas of your property and as a place from which to fight a fire. Remember that firebreaks must be wide enough and have enough vertical clearance to let a firefighting truck pass. Maintain your firebreaks to ensure your property can be defended during a fire.
Crop Fire Safety
Fires are more likely to occur on farms during harvest given the movement of machinery and vehicles through cropped paddocks. Many of these fires could be prevented by taking some simple fire safety steps, conducting regular maintenance checks and keeping headers clean during harvest. Modern harvesters have many potential ignition sources which require regular servicing and close monitoring such as:
- Hot exhausts
- Electrical circuits
Dry straw, dust, chaff, oil and leaking distillate are the perfect fuels. Keeping headers free of these fuels is important to prevent fires.
Routine maintenance around your home
Small jobs and simple measures, such as clearing the leaves out of your gutter and keeping your lawns mown short, can make all the difference in protecting your home in the event
of a bushfire. Here are some maintenance tips that are just as useful for older houses as they are for newly built homes. These tasks can be done year-round to ensure your home is always
- Roofs and gutters: Keep roofing, gutters and downpipes clear of leaves and debris. Consider installing metal leaf gutter guards to prevent litter build up. Repair broken tiles or dislodged roofing materials.
- External walls and windows: Check for gaps in the externals walls and windows. Repair broken bricks, decaying timber or damaged cement sheeting.
- Steps: Keep steps/stairs/verandahs clear of debris and remove combustible materials, including leaves, grass, wood, building materials and flammable welcome mats.
- Water: Check taps, hoses and hose reels are in good working order. Check pumps are fuelled and oiled to start easily. Ensure there is adequate water supply to meet the needs of the job.
- Access: Check driveways and access tracks are clear of trees.
- LP gas cylinders: Consider the best place to store your LP gas cylinders. Do not place them under the verandah and ensure there is no flammable material in front of the valve for at least 6 metres.
- Pipes: Consider using metal pipes and hose fittings instead of plastic (these can melt when you most need them) or bury them.
- Fire Traps: Are there any other fire traps around your home that you may have overlooked? Walk around your property imagining a bushfire is approaching in the middle of summer.
The devastating impact a bushfire has on a community has a lasting affect and can take years to recover from. Preparation is everything – give your family home the best chance of survival