Bushfire Season: Minimising Fire Danger to Your Property

By Kristie Kwok on 27 Nov 2013
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The recent NSW bushfires were a sobering reminder of the dangers many face during bushfire season. 

As we near the onset of summer, planning for bushfire protection is a must if you live in a high risk area. An important part of this process involves preparing your home so that it will have a better chance of getting through a bushfire undamaged.

Local fire services have a wealth of information on how to plan and prepare for a bushfire. 

“As we near the onset of summer, planning for bushfire protection is a must if you live in a high risk area.”

According to the Country Fire Authority, those who live near dense forest, woodlands, grasslands and the coast are at greater risk for fire. 

Hot, dry and windy weather conditions in these environments are dangerous because vegetation from such areas provides plenty of fuel to spread bushfires.    

Bushfire Protection for Your House

In an ideal world, you should prepare your property before the start of the bushfire season. 

Since fire requires fuel to burn, it is important that you remove anything near your house that can feed a fire.  Examples of flammable materials include leaves in gutters, cardboard, paper recycling materials and woodpiles.

You also need to minimise the chance of embers entering your home and starting fires.  Decks, windows, doors and roof areas are more susceptible to this danger.

 You can protect these parts of your property by:

• Ensuring any gaps, holes or cracks on walls, floors, windows, doors and roof areas are sealed or repaired
• Installing bushfire sprinklers
• Putting in window shutters
• Fitting metal screen doors over timber doors
• Covering under floor spaces with fire proof sheeting or metal mesh
• Covering all external vents with metal mesh
• Using fire proof decking materials.

How Vegetation Management Can Help

Vegetation provides fuel for fire, so you can increase fire protection around your home by managing all your plants, foliage and mulch. 

Mow your lawn to keep grass around 5-10cm high, remove weeds regularly and avoid the use of mulch in favour of non-flammable alternatives such as pebbles, sand or rocks. 

Removing lower branches and pruning shrubs will also help to prevent fires from spreading.

Fire Protection Inside the Home

The CFA estimates that there are around 4,500 house fires each year in Victoria alone. 

However, simple precautions can often prevent blazes that start within the home.  Some of these measures include:

• Not leaving cooking unattended
• Keeping tea towels, pot-holders and anything else that will catch fire away from open flame
• Having curtains, items of clothing and toys away from heaters
• Not overloading powerboards
• Making sure you have a working smoke alarm
• Keeping candles, incense and oil burners away from curtains
• Checking your electric blanket for knots in wiring.

Have a Back-Up Plan

Ultimately, if you live in a bushfire prone area, it is crucial that you have a fire plan in place, particularly in the event you do need to abandon your property.

On a Code Red Day (the highest possible fire danger rating) defending your home is not the safest option and you should evacuate the night before or early in the morning. You should also strongly consider your safety during Extreme or Severe fire risk days.

“Ultimately, if you live in a bushfire prone area, it is crucial that you have a fire plan in place.”

If you do need to evacuate, there are things you can do before you leave to minimise the damage to your property, such as:

• Closing all the windows and doors
• Moving outdoor items away from the house
• Filling the gutters with water
• Turning off the gas
• Opening gates and removing obstructions so fire trucks can easily reach your property

As a general practice, keep an eye on the CFA website’s Warnings and Incidents page for a map of active fires, heed text message warnings, and ensure you have a portable, battery operated radio as a back-up during power outages.     

For specific advice on fire protection inside your home, or how to prepare for a bushfire for your particular property, contact your local fire service or authority.

About the Author

Kristie Kwok is a Street News writer and a fully qualified chartered accountant with a Bachelor of Accounting and Finance degree. Kristie has a passion for all aspects related to property. She also has a strong interest in the economy and financial markets. Kristie has worked for reputable corporates such as KPMG UK, UBS, Lloyds Banking Group and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

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