10 things to do before the fire season
10 Things to do before fire season. Fire season is approaching most of Australia now, so what are the 10 things to do before the fire season hits? The fire season falls at different times depending on where you live. Seasonal change increases and decreases the risk. But to be safe you should be prepared by doing the following –
- Clean out roof gutters and downpipes
- Clean out surface drains
- Test emergency roof sprinklers
- Check water storage
- Test Firefighting equipment
- Clean up the yard
- Check your fire breaks
- Check your emergency kit
- Review your emergency plans
- Know your area
You don’t have to live in the bush to be affected by a bush fire. Suburbs are built among forests and nature corridors are planted through existing suburbs. Each brings fire to your back door. Even if you are in the middle of a suburb the outer homes catch on fire and they spread the fire further.
What causes a fire risk?
For a fire to occur it needs oxygen, heat and fuel. The biggest issue with trying to prevent wildfires is controlling the fuel load.
What is fuel load? Anything that will burn –
- Dry grass, leaves
- Dry green waste, tree branches, palm fronds
- Petrol, gas, oil, plastics
- Buildings, cars
- Green trees especially species with high oil content like eucalyptus.
And once the fire takes hold and is hot enough it will burn pretty much everything. Once the fuel load is at the right dryness the risk of fire increases.
The fuel load doesn’t even have to be dry. The high heat of a fire approaching can quickly dry out foliage, lawns and the like.
Fires can be lit by –
- lightning strikes,
- fallen power lines,
- glass magnifying the sun,
- sparks from trains on railway lines,
- falling embers from other fires and
Whether the arsonist starts the fire or not, it only takes a fire warning or fire to be shown on the news to break an arsonist out of their hibernation. Next thing fires are being lit everywhere.
How can we reduce the risk around our homes?
Clean out roof gutters and downpipes
Leaves from overhead or nearby trees can blow onto your roof. They will either fall or wash down into your guttering and downpipes. These leaves dry out and when there is a fire nearby hot embers blowing in the wind landing on your roof and the next thing you know the roof is on fire.
Don’t forget the downpipes. Many people clean out the guttering but forget about the downpipes which can be choked with leaves.
Blocked downpipes can flood your roof if you have a sprinkler system or fire pumps spraying your roof over a length of time.
Clean out surface drains
Similar to roof guttering, clean out anywhere around the house that collects dry leaves and is a fire waiting to happen. This can be surface drains, roadside gutters, garden beds, and the like.
If you have larger drains on or near your property clean, weed or mow them to keep the grass (fuel load) down.
Test emergency roof sprinklers
Some houses in high fire risk areas have roof sprinklers installed. The sprinkler system wets down the roof and extinguishes any ember attacks from nearby fires.
If you don’t have a system permanently in place you can put the garden sprinkler on the roof for the fire.
A problem with this system is that it relies on a flow of water. If for some reason the water mains are damaged or you run out of water the system will stop. If you have this system, consider having a backup water supply such as a dam or pool to pump from.
A similar system that uses less water is to block the downpipes and put some water in the guttering after you have cleaned them out. Don’t flood the guttering as it will run back into your roof space flooding your house.
Just don’t forget to remove the downpipe blockages after the fire before it rains.
Check water storage
Residences in rural and high fire risk zones should have a storage of water that can be used if a fire breaks out. Your home may not be in danger but the firefighters might need a top-up to fight a fire further down the road, preventing it from reaching your home.
This excess water can be stored in tanks, dams, swimming pools and the like. In peak fire season you may hear calls for people with excess water to let the firefighters know or put a sign on their gate.
The big problem being after a long dry season when there isn’t a lot of water around and the bush is drying out fast increasing the fire risk.
Ensure your tanks, dams and pool is full before the season. Tanks reduce the risk of evaporation so they last longer.
Test Fire fighting equipment
Regularly check your fire fighting equipment. This equipment can range from portable extinguishers (not great for bush fires), fire water pumps, hoses, and portable storage tanks.
This testing is a good time to teach other family members how to use it in case you are not home when a fire breaks out.
Clean up the yard
Use this time of year before the fire season to clean up your yard. Clean up the green waste stacked in the corner or thrown over the fence.
Fires easily jump to your house if the rubbish is piled out in the yard. Mow long grass on and around the property. Tidy up any light mulch in the gardens which can catch alight with embers.
Clean up anything
- That can catch fire such as leaves, branches
- Anything you don’t want to be burnt such as a ride on mower or toys
- Obstacles that are going to hinder your or the firefighters’ efforts to put out the fire.
This is also useful as storm/cyclone season falls after the fire season in most areas.
Check your fire breaks
Fire breaks are a cleared areas around
- Your home,
- your property border and across the paddocks (larger properties)
- Special areas such as animal enclosures.
What are fire breaks for?
They serve several purposes –
- Slow down the spread of a fire front by reducing the fuel load. (doesn’t stop ember attack)
- Gives the firefighters vehicle access to defend your property during a fire
- Can be a point for firefighters to start back burning to keep the main fire away from the houses.
- Gives other authorities access to other properties for example electrical companies
Depending on where you live check with your local fire authority on the guidelines for fire breaks. But at the very least keep the grass and fuel load down around your property.
Check your emergency kit
You may get a warning of an approaching fire or it can spring up quickly. If an evacuation is called you don’t have time to run around the house collecting your medications, documents, valuables etc.
You should have a prepared evacuation emergency kit you can just grab and go.
A few times through the year you should check your kit is complete, not out of date and is in an easily accessible location. Get your free Emergency kit checklist and get started.
Review your emergency plans
Everyone should have an emergency plan no matter where you live. If you are single it might be in your head at least but if you have a family it needs to be discussed, throughout and everyone educated so they know what to do in a disaster.
Having the plan in your head might sound good but when a disaster springs up you will be trying to think of everything at once and things will get forgotten.
Strong fire seasons can bring large fires and disasters that can be deadly and you need to know when to evacuate or when to take cover. If you don’t evacuate you may be on your own dealing with the disaster.
Your plans should also include how you are going to find out about the fire risk. What you should and shouldn’t be doing when the risk rises. For example, no campfires or fireworks.
If you don’t have a plan I have created this workbook to help you develop one. You can purchase the “Disaster Plan Workbook for Families” here.
Know your area
If you are new to an area or have lived there your whole life you need to get to know your area. What are the risks? What are the safest escape routes? What are the alternative escape routes if the main road is blocked? Where do people evacuate too? It is hard to make up an emergency plan if you don’t know anything about your area.
Each year the fire season is different. Heavy rains increase vegetation that dries off in the dry season adding to the fuel load. Whereas droughts have very little vegetation and there is nothing to burn. Some areas have two seasons wet and dry while others have regular rain through the year which can reduce the fire risk.
One of the more dangerous situations is time. If there hasn’t been a fire in your area for a decade people become complacent and don’t prepare. Areas that don’t see fires often can have higher fuel loads and unprepared communities.
Living in an area for a while can make you develop a sense of ease. The disaster hasn’t hit for years she will be right. You stop preparing, cleaning up and taking warnings seriously. And you don’t even totally learn about your area. We all say one day we should go check out that suburb, park, beach etc.
Time also makes us forget what happened last time. It doesn’t take much to be prepared, the time taken now will save you a lot of time during and after the disaster. It could save your property and your family too.
Prepare your property, emergency kit and family before the fire season to reduce the stress if a fire should break out.