During Australia's hot and dry summer months, the risk of a bushfire breaking out in rural areas rises significantly. Nearly every year, somewhere in the country, lives and homes are lost to fires that spark very suddenly and spread at scarily rapid rates. With this in mind, if your home is located near bushland or the area in which you live has a history of fires, it's important to take steps to fireproof your home and increase its chances of withstanding a fire if the worst does end up happening. The following outlines the main areas you should focus on. Even so, if a fire does occur and it seems likely your property will be hit, the best course of action is to evacuate entirely, rather to stay and fight. The safety of you and your family should always be your top priority.
Remove flammable material and items
One of your first steps should be to take a walk around your backyard and identify any materials or items that can easily alight. This may include stacks of wood, plastic placemats and outdoor furniture like tables and chairs. On particularly fire prone days, remove these materials and items and store them somewhere they cannot catch on fire. This slows the speed at which a potential fire can spread.
Create a circle of safety around your home
Fire emergency and protection services all around the country stress the need for what they call a circle of safety around your property. This refers to a 20-metre circle surrounding your home in which you should focus on clearing any easily flammable and dense vegetation, such as dry grass and pieces of rubbish. At the same time, you should cut the lower branches of any trees on your property to stop embers from climbing into the trees. All of this creates an area known as a firebreak which can stop fire from reaching your property, or at least slow it down.
Seal windows and vents with screens or shutters
In the event of a fire, embers can travel through openings in your home, such as air vents, open windows, and even small cracks and spark a fire inside your home. To combat this, install screens and shutters over windows and a stainless-steel weave mesh over your AC. Always close all windows if a fire is approaching.
Invest in fire detection and protection equipment
Purchasing and installing an adequate alarm system is vital. Early detection greatly increases your chances of survival. At the same time, consider investing in fire safety equipment such as fire extinguishers and fire blankets. An on-site hose that's regularly checked and maintained will also help in an emergency.
If a fire is approaching your home, call fire protection services immediately. Assess the risk and evacuate if necessary.