compiled by Dr. James Alexander
WHAT I’VE LEARNT ABOUT FIRE PROTECTION AFTER LISTENING TO EXPERTS
* The safest place to be is nowhere near a fire, so the RFS will always suggest this.
* Many homes are not defendable, due to their location, the amount of fuel around them, the terrain, lack of water supply or pressure, lack of enough people to put out embers.
* Most houses burn down from ember attacks, not fire fronts.
* Ember attacks can occur up to a couple of hours before a fire-front hits, and after the front has passed.
* Houses don’t just explode in the face of intense radiant heat – solid objects (like houses), do offer protection from radiant heat.
* Most fire fronts pass on average within around 7 minutes, but it can take up to 20 minutes.
* Windows can break during a fire front, so embers can then enter the house and cause an internal fire. Have visible access to roof cavities in case embers get up there.
* It is a mistake to clear all trees away from around a house- as they can offer a screen of protection from embers, and can maintain a higher level of humidity around the house.
* Tree branches hanging over a house roof are dangerous and should be removed.
* Native species like eucalypts have a very high oil content, while introduced species (other than conifers) usually have around 10% of the oil content of native trees. It is safer to have low oil content trees near your home.
* Trees with rough bark will often create the most dangerous embers when burning – these are not good to have near your home.
* Most deaths in fires are from people trying to flee a fire front (best to not try due to the speed of fires, lack of visibility, obstructed roads), or not seeking adequate protection in a house or not doing it safely.
* Leaf blowers can be just as effective as water in putting out grass or spot fires, and in eliminating ground fuel from the house surrounds or containment lines. Don’t use leaf blowers to clear gutters as this can just force fuel up under your roof.
* Embers can attach to cobwebs on the outside of the house, under veranda, roofs – or anywhere; and these embers, held in place by cobwebs, can then acts as wicks for fire.
* It is possible to defend your home against both ember attacks and fire fronts, but in both cases you need to have an adequate water supply with powerful pressure soaking all aspects of your house. You need to eliminate or radically reduce fuels outside your home and on verandas. Your plan needs to include multiple sources of water (both hoses and buckets) with the means of putting out spot fires, e.g mops, wet towels, hessian sacks etc.
* Fire travels much faster uphill than downhill, due to the fuel being above the flames. If being approached from below by an uphill fire, you will have less warning and time to respond.
* Planning is essential – planning to prevent your home being vulnerable; planning what to do in case of an ember attack; planning an exit to a safe place if defence has failed, e.g to a shelter, behind a solid wall, or to burnt/clear ground.
* Dress in wool and cotton clothes, so that no skin (or hair) is exposed. Wear heavy duty boots, gloves, face protection, wet towel around your neck; breathing protection and goggles.