If you live in a bushfire prone area, you know how nerve-wracking a long, hot Aussie summer can be. So when summer rolls around, it’s important that your home is bushfire-ready.
Why prepare my home for bushfire season?
Preparing your home for bushfire season is ultimately about preparing for the worst and proactively minimising potential damage to your home and your family.
Bushfires can move incredibly quickly and do catastrophic damage. Even if the fire front is kilometres away, a fire can still take hold on your property. Fires can spread through embers that are carried by the wind. If an ember lands on your property and finds sufficient fuel, you can suddenly have a raging fire to deal with.
Preparing your home also makes it easier to defend it. For instance, ensuring there is access to water can make it easier and quicker for firefighters to save your property.
So, what should you be doing?
Keeping your lawn short
Long, dry grass is a major fire risk. All it takes is one ember and that long grass can burst into flame. Make sure you regularly mow your grass in summer to minimise this risk. Shorter grass offers less fuel for fires. Plus there’s the added benefit of keeping your yard looking neat and tidy.
Tidy your garden
Make a habit of regularly removing any fallen leaves, twigs and branches from your yard. Any dried plant debris will quickly flare up in case of a fire.
Cut back trees and shrubs
Trees and shrubs can also feed fires in an ember attack, so it’s important that they are cut back. No tree or shrub should overhang or touch your home. If it does, it’s an easy path for fire to jump from your yard to your home.
As you trim, remember to tidy up the base of shrubs too. There should be a clear gap between the grass and the lower branches. This will prevent the fire jumping from the grass to the treetops.
Store flammable materials away from home
Ensure that any flammable materials – like pesticides, petrol cans and even firewood – are stored safely away from your home. Ideally, this should be in a locked shed. If an ember were to fall on these highly flammable materials, it could be disastrous, particularly if they are close to your home.
Ensure hoses can reach around home
While it’s not advised to stay and fight bushfires, that doesn’t mean you can’t make your home more easily defensible. Make it easier to protect and save your home by ensuring that there are hoses that can reach any point of your home. This will make it easier to quickly extinguish embers that land on your property before they take hold.
Advertise water source for firefighters
Firefighters often have their work cut out for them, so if there is additional water at your home, let them know. This can include water tanks, dams and even pools. Put a sign at the front of your property clearing stating this. Ensure they can easily access this water source, even if you’re not there.
Repair and clean roof and gutters
Fixing damaged or replacing missing roof tiles makes it harder for embers to get into your home. An ember landing on your roof tiles may not do any damage. But an ember in your roof cavity could be catastrophic.
Ensure that you keep your roof and gutters clear of flammable materials. Thorough and professional roof cleaning at the start of fire season and after windy days will help with this. Make sure to remove any debris, like leaves and twigs, to minimise fuel for fires. Keeping your roof clean will also mean that water can freely flow off it, aiding firefighter’s efforts.
At the start of summer, seal any gaps around doors and windows. Even a small gap can be enough space for an ember to get through. Sealing these gaps can also mean your air conditioning is more effective as hot air isn’t getting into your home.
You should also repair or cover any gaps in your home’s exterior walls. If you opt to cover a gap, ensure that it is a tight fit and the covering is not flammable.
Enclose areas under house
A fire that starts under your home can be difficult to initially detect, can cause significant structural damage and be difficult to fight. Ensure any areas under your home are safely enclosed with fireproof material. Fine metal mesh or bricks are good for this job, depending on how you use this space.
Install fine metal mesh screens
Add fine metal mesh screens to any doors or windows so that you can still ensure air flow in your home without the risk of embers.
However, if you are leaving your home because of an approaching bushfire, you should close all windows and doors. This helps to minimise the chance of a fire starting in your home when you are not there to deal with it quickly.
Remove flammable items from around your home
If there is an immediate bushfire threat, remove flammable items from around your home. This includes furniture, pot plants and doormats. If left alone, these items may ignite and damage your home.
Attach fire sprinkler system to gutters
A fire sprinkler system on your gutters can be a way to extinguish embers and small fires before they take hold. Ensure it is fitted correctly and do not fully rely on it to do all the work when it comes to protecting your home from fires. Our other tips are just as important.
There’s lots to do to get your home ready to cope with the worst of bushfire season. Make sure you limit flammable materials in your yard and around your home, and make it easier for firefighters to do their job if the worst happens. And once you’ve done that you can get your home ready to make the most of the best of summer.