With the warmer weather now upon us, we all need to make sure our properties and us are prepared for bushfire this season. There are a number of areas you need to look at to minimise the risk of property damage and injury to people.
Prepare your gardens and surrounds
The first thing is to check with your local council about clearing and fire regulations as local areas vary in what needs to be done and what you can clear. Once you have the appropriate instructions or permission, then clear a distance of 20m around your buildings and ensure that tall trees that are beyond this are not going to cause large amounts of damage if they fall. A good way to have a cleared area around your house is to have lawn. It is short and damp and if you set up your irrigation properly, and then you can have a wet fire break to assist in protecting your home.
In addition, you then need to look at clearing low hanging branches up to 2m high from trees through the rest of the property, this lowers the chance of a fire climbing into the canopy and growing quickly. The last big item is preparing the firebreaks around your boundary to the appropriate local regulation. This won’t stop a fire but will help to slow it down and provides a safer access to emergency vehicles if they need to defend your property.
Another overlooked preparation is your driveway. A private narrow winding driveway might look good but if a fire truck needs to get up the drive quickly the might get stuck. Also if the driver thinks there is not a safe place to turn around at the end then they might not even attempt to enter your property and if its on fire unfortunately they can’t risk life to save it.
Have a reliable water source
The next most important thing is to have a reliable water source. That is a large volume of water that does not require electricity or large amounts of effort to use for putting out spot fires and if needed, filling fire appliances. A good example of this is a large (more than 20,000L) water tank, a swimming pool or a dam. This needs to be close to buildings and other things that need to be protected and easy to access, i.e. no boggy banks and 1m deep grass around the dam.
A lot of people rely on a bore for fire protection but then promptly discover that as soon as a fire starts, all the power is turned off as power lines fall down. If you have an electric bore pump, then unless it is set up with motor protection properly, then it is risky to try and run it off a generator. Bore pumps are very sensitive to poor quality power (fluctuations in frequency and voltage) which most generators produce and even though it might work, it might destroy the pump when you need the water the most. The best insurance is a storage tank above ground that is kept full so when something happens, the water is ready to use.
A very useful asset is a swimming pool. This is because it is usually right next to the house and is a tank of 20,000- 80,000L of clean water. You can easily set up a portable firefighting pump to suck out of a pool and protect your property and fill fire trucks.
Make sure your pumps and pipes are easy to access
If your pump is 150m away, down a narrow path through tall grass and you have to open a pit to start it. Imagine then trying to get to it in the dark, when it is hot and smoky or you actually need to explain to a firefighter where it is and how it works. This is not fun and is dangerous. All you need to do is basic preparation, make things easy to use and easy to work out how they turn on without a 20 minute demonstration.
The same is for pipes , if there is poly pipes running everywhere and unlabelled taps that just run off into the distance. If someone else needs to turn up and help or fill up with water, they are not scratching their head trying to work out how to extract water they can just grab the hose or hook up and fill up. A good example is the 3”(80mm) camlock outlets that are now compulsory for most rural water tanks. This takes away the guesswork for fire trucks, they can just turn up and fill up and get back to what they are doing, putting out the fire.
Test your systems to make sure they work like you think they should
If you have now spent a heap of time and money fitting out your property with pumps and tanks to protect you, then the next step is to get the gear out when there is no emergency on and test it. It is also important that everyone who lives there knows where the gear is and how it works too. You never know where you will be when something happens and if you can rely on whoever is home to get the gear out and start it up then there is less panic and you know the the system will work. This also eliminates any problems that would be difficult to fix in the heat of an emergency.
Have a plan the whole family knows and practise it.
Now that all the gear and water is place and the property is prepared, then make a simple to follow plan and practice it to make sure that it will work. Make the decision to stay or leave well before it needs to happen and make sure that anything you can’t afford to lose is in a fireproof safe or is easy to pack up, throw in the car and take with you as you evacuate.
At the end of the day, there is no guarantee that things won’t go wrong. A bushfire can be a very unpredictable and fast moving incident. Even if you have the best equipment and are well prepared, things can go wrong very quickly. If you choose to live in a bushfire prone area be prepared to leave quickly and ensure you are insured or prepared so what you leave behind may not be there when you return.
Give us a call today on 9721 3577 or email us to discuss your options for fire protection this summer.