Are you Bushfire Ready?
While there are elements of a bushfire you cannot control, like the weather, there is a wide range of planning and preparation activities that you can undertake which will dramatically increase the chances of you, your family and home surviving in the event of a bushfire.
Whilst bushfire season is incredibly unpredictable, there are preparations you can do around your home to protect it. You need to prepare well before hand as leaving it to the last minute is too late. September and October are the best months to start working on protecting your home and property from bushfire danger. In 2019, the first fires started in early September lasting all the way through to late January. It was a constant state of emergency and due to the unprecedented wave, a lot of manufacturers and distributors of bushfire sprinklers, pumps and fittings ran out of stock. Don't leave it till it's too late.
Here are five simple things you can do before and during the bushfire season:
The greatest threat to your home will come from ember attack. Embers and debris will be thrown ahead of the fire approximately 30 minutes before the fire reaches the property, depending on factors like wind speed, temperature and size of the fire. During this period you may need to remain outside to extinguish spot fires occurring in the near vicinity.
The second stage of the ember attack will last for five to ten minutes as the fire front passes the property. Take shelter inside your home taking all hoses and plastic tap fittings with you. Be alert at all times for spot fires inside.
The final stage of the ember attack can last up to eight hours. Once the fire front has passed, go outside to extinguish any nearby fires and continue to monitor both inside and outside the property for any sparks, flames, embers or hot debris that may set alight.
External Sprinkler Systems
A sprinkler system alone will not provide adequate fire safety measures for your home, but can greatly enhance your survivability if all other property preparations and precautions have been taken.
Sprinkler systems, also known as external water spray systems, will add considerable protection to a well prepared property.
A sprinkler system is used to cover the property with water and at the same time is designed to be utilised as a firefighting resource. Apart from sprinkler heads, hose outlets can also be incorporated into the system, if there is enough capacity on your pump. Hoses can then be attached using Camlock or Storz fittings and used to put out spot fires.
If there is a bush fire in your area and your property is well prepared it is important that you remain at home to turn on the sprinkler system and help our RFS members protect your property.
Effective sprinkler systems should meet the following criteria:
Independent Water Supply
- As mains water pressure is likely to be lost during bush fires, connect the sprinkler system to an independent water supply.
- The independent water supply could be a swimming pool, rainwater tank or dam and should be at least 22,000 litres.
Metal impact and butterfly sprinklers work well and are used predominantly in the field. The sprinkler heads should be located so its spray overlaps the next adjoining sprinkler. This helps to allow for wind and individual blockages.
Metal impact sprinklers should be placed on the ridge of the house. They can also be placed in the garden on the side of the house, which is likely to be impacted by the bush fire. Impact sprinklers cover about a 10 metre radius and use 20 litres per minute.
Metal butterfly sprinklers should be fixed to the eaves. They have about a 5 metre radius and use about 17 litres per minute. The butterfly heads should spray in front of the windows, doors and walls.
Water droplet size is important, as a fine mist can be blown away from the structure being protected.
Have you serviced your fire pump lately? It is important to service your pump and run it at least twice a year.
- The motor starts
- The fuel tank is full
- Your hoses for leaks and cracks
- Your water tank is full
- As power is likely to be lost during bush fires do not use an electric pump (unless you have back up power such as a generator).
- Locate the pump as close as possible to the water supply.
- As a rule of thumb use 40mm suction hose with end strainer attached.
- Keep the pump out of the weather and protected from the fire.
- Dural Irrigation can advise you on the right pump for your needs.
The pipe from the pump to the house should be more than 375mm below ground level and 50mm diameter polyethylene pipe is recommended. Use compression fittings for pipe and pump connections.
Due to radiant heat all above ground piping should be copper, however poly pipe can be used.
Consider fitting ball valves in order to redirect the water flow where it is needed at any one time. Using ball valves can also give you points at which you can connect a hose to fight spot fires.
Gutters and Downpipes
Gutters fill up with leaves and debris overtime, embers from a fire can travel long distances and if they land in your chocked up gutters of leaves they will feed the fire and your roof can become alight in seconds. Your gutters should be cleaned at least once a year whether you are in a bushfire prone area or not. The best time to do this is late winter or early Spring when nearby trees have finished dropping their leaves.
Blocking downpipes and filling your gutters with water will help extinguish embers that land on the roof. Blocking downpipes can be achieved using simple homemade devices or Dural Irrigation stocks the Rain Harvesting Fire Plug™ which comes in kit form and are easily fitted to PVC downpipes, they can withstand exceptionally high heat and flame when filled with water. They can also be used throughout the year to redirect rainwater to the swimming pool, pond or garden.
Fitted into downpipes around the home at waist height, Fire Plugs™ are easily converted to block off the downpipe.
No ladder climbing! Simply connect the hose to the water supply and turn on to fill roof gutters and prevent wind blown embers igniting leaves or debris in the roof gutters.
Final things to consider.
- Hoses are long enough to reach all sides of the house, attached to taps.
- Have heavy duty hoses attached with wide-spray nozzles if possible.
- Reserve water supplies from tank, dam or swimming pool, if possible, since mains water will be in high demand. Try to store water during winter months.
- Valve fitted to your water tank ( a 38mm storz coupling will assist the Rural Fire Brigade).
- Have a ball valve to fit portable pump as well.
- Regularly check petrol or diesel portable pump, if you have one, to ensure it starts easily.
- Install a sprinkler system in your garden and on roofing if affordable.
- Gather buckets (preferably metal) mops, spray backpack units, ladders, rakes and shovels in one place for ready access during fire.
- Have battery operated radio and torches in case of electricity failure.
- Diana Norris