Prepare Your Home
Your home is more likely to survive a bushfire if you have prepared it properly. The most important job is to create a defendable space, which is an area around your home where you have modified the vegetation and removed most of the other flammable materials. Flames and radiant heat from an approaching bushfire will be reduced, sparks and embers will have less fuel to ignite when they land, and any spot fires will be easier to put out.
A defendable space makes it much easier to defend your home. And if you choose not to stay, a defendable space will help firefighters protect your home, or may even protect your home if firefighters can't reach it.
Tasmania Fire Service recommends that you should not plan to defend your home when the fire danger rating exceeds 50 (severe) unless you have created a defendable space and ember-proofed your home.
Once a defendable space has been created, it needs to be maintained during each fire season to be effective.
A defendable space includes two 'zones':
· an inner zone where flammable materials are minimised, and
· an outer zone where a low level of flammable material is permitted.
In the inner zone, flammable materials on, under and around your home should all be moved away from the house. Use Table 1 below to work out the distance you need to apply.
In the inner zone:
· include non-flammable areas such as paths, driveways, and mowed lawns,
· use non-flammable mulch, do not use woodchips or bark,
· locate any dams, orchards, vegetable gardens and any effluent disposal areas on the fire prone side of the home,
· use radiation shields and windbreaks such as stone or metal fences, and hedges using fire resisting plants,
· remove fire hazards such as wood piles, rubbish heaps and stored fuels,
· replace all highly flammable plants with fire retarding plants,
· prune lower branches on trees and remove flammable shrubs from under and between trees, and
· rake up bark and leaves and keep roofs and gutters clear of flammable debris.
It is not necessary to remove all vegetation from the inner zone. Individual trees rarely cause houses to burn in bushfires. And trees can screen a building from windblown embers while protecting it from radiant heat. Smooth barked trees are less likely to catch fire than those with rough bark. No tree should be able to fall on the home.
In the outer zone, small-sized natural fuels (such as leaf litter, bark, sticks, tussocks and some shrubs) should be removed and larger fuels (trees and shrubs) should be cut back to reduce the intensity of an approaching bushfire.
Fuel amount and continuity, both on the ground and between the ground and any larger trees, should be reduced by selective removal of vegetation, both horizontally and vertically, followed by on-going maintenance.
In the outer zone:
· retain established trees to trap embers and reduce wind speeds,
· selectively remove small trees and shrubs to create clumps (rather than a continuous wall of trees), separated by open areas,
· remove the vegetation between the ground and the bottom of the tree canopy, to a height of at least 2 metres, and
· minimise fine fuels at ground level, such as grasses and leaf litter.
There is no need to remove most trees as they are beneficial in trapping embers and reducing wind speeds and will not be involved in a bushfire once the fuels on the ground and the understorey have been modified. Effective landscaping design should provide for safety while retaining a pleasant environment. The final impression from a distance is that all the vegetation has been retained, while up close, the impression is of more open vegetation.
If you plan to remove bushfire fuels by burning them during a Fire Permit Period, you may need a permit issued by a Fire Permit Officer (call 1800 000 699). If it is a Non Fire Permit Period, contact your local council for information about local restrictions.
Ember-proofing your home:
You also need to make sure your home is protected against 'ember attack'.
Embers will build up on horizintal surfaces, particularly in corners. They can enter your home through small gaps around window and door frames, eaves, cladding and roofing. Timber decks can be ignited, particularly if embers can build up beneath them.
Small gaps should be sealed with protection strips or non-combustible filler, and larger under-deck areas should be protected with non-flammable mesh screens.
Measures to ember-proof your home should be taken well before the beginning of summer.