The bushfire season can be a worrying time for landholders. Not only do you have your family and home to protect from fire but there are the added considerations of pets, livestock, machinery, sheds, yards and tanks.
Preparing yourself, family and home is your responsibility. The more you prepare your home, the better the chance it will survive a fire, even if you have left well before the fire reaches the property.
With planning and effort the majority of houses in bushfire risk areas can survive most bushfires. A well prepared home will give you more protection if a fire threatens suddenly and you cannot leave.
During a major bushfire firefighters will be working to stop the fire.
A fire truck may not be available to defend your home so it is important both you and your family have taken action.
A thorough fire preparedness plan involves a number of steps including:
- identifying your assets that need protection
- determining the fire risks on your property
- minimising risk
- making plans for livestock and pets in the event of a fire
- ensuring you are prepared if a bushfire threatens.
Identify your assets
To get a sound idea of your property’s assets it is wise to complete a ‘stocktake’ of your tangible assets, including:
- buildings and machinery
- fencing and livestock yards
- water tanks, bores and pumps
- livestock, crops, orchards and gardens.
Also consider your ‘natural’ assets including creekside vegetation, eucalypt forest/woodland with understorey and swamp and other wetlands.
Different vegetation types require different fire preparedness strategies.
Identify the risk
To determine the level of risk to your property consider:
- vegetation and its proximity to buildings
- the volume of long grass
- on-farm fuel and chemical storages
- property location, access and proximity to firefighting services
- fire history, prevailing winds, slope and aspect of the land.
Minimise the risk
Minimising fire-risk is the most essential element of your bushfire preparedness plan.
Many landholders will have a significant build-up of bush, trees and long grass that can present a dangerous fire hazard, if not managed properly.
Some risk mitigation strategies include:
- Reducing the fuel load - remove or prune trees, shrubs and understorey, rake up fine-fuel, keep lawns mowed, slash long grass, carry out hazard reduction burns (a permit may be required), remove sticks, bark and leaves from gutters.
- Asset protection zones - create clear areas around assets, such as the home, and manage them to reduce fuel loads and to provide easy access for firefighters and yourself.
- Firebreaks - create firebreaks around paddock boundaries to protect crops and orchards, around buildings, fuel storage, along roads and railway boundaries and beneath high-voltage powerlines. When constructing a firebreak consider if fire permits and environmental approvals are required. The best way to create a firebreak is by spraying, cultivating, scalping or mowing.
- Grazing paddocks and sowing and maintaining lawn can also provide firebreaks. For example a lucerne paddock can provide an effective firebreak to protect key assets and provide a refuge for livestock. Make sure firebreak construction does not cause erosion.