Every Victorian living near bush, grassland or coastal areas needs to be aware of their bushfire risk, prepare their property and have a Bushfire Survival Plan.
Whether your plan is to leave before bushfire threatens or to stay to actively defend a well-prepared property, you will need to prepare your house.
The first step in making a Bushfire Survival Plan is understanding whether you have adequate defendable space around your property.
This is an area surrounding a building that has little or no combustible vegetation or other materials that could fuel a fire. Defendable space is achieved by managing the vegetation around your home.
If you do not have defendable space it is not safe to stay to defend your house.
CFA’s new Household Bushfire Self-Assessment Tool will help you determine if you have adequate defendable space. You’ll find it at www.cfa.vic.gov.au or you can request a printed copy by phoning the Victorian Bushfire Information Line on 1800 240 667.
If you plan to stay, you need to identify, create and continue to maintain defendable space around your home in addition to other property preparation you do.
If your house is to protect you from bushfire then it must have defendable space. If you plan to leave your property, your house will have more chance of surviving a bushfire if you have created and maintained this defendable space.
Managing the vegetation around your home and property contributes to your safety by creating less opportunity for a fire to reach your home quickly. Clearing such a space limits the ability of a moving fire to spread directly to your home through flame contact or radiant heat.
The amount of defendable space you require depends on two main factors:
1. the type and amount of vegetation you have around your home.
2. the degree of slope you live on.
As a general rule you may need much more defendable space if there is dense forest all around you. However, if you are surrounded by grass or manicured gardens you will need less.
This needs to be considered for up to 100m around your house. However, the 10m radius around your home is most critical.
Create a space around your home by having a 10m area with:
• No shrubs over 1 metre
• No shrubs next to or below windows. In many bushfires, burning shrubs up against the house have contributed to cracking windows, allowing embers to enter the house
• Grass no higher than 10cm
• No overhanging tree branches
• No plant-based mulch or leaf litter more than 1cm deep.
From 10m to your property boundary (or up to 100m) it is advised that you manage the vegetation so that:
• only half the area has shrub coverage and grass is kept short. Severe fires are less likely to occur if your yard is free from long grass, leaves, twigs, bark and shrubs that can move fire into taller trees.
• there are breaks between clumps of vegetation. This makes it more difficult for the fire to move from one area to another and reduces the fire intensity.
In some cases, mature trees can play a useful role in protection against bushfire. They can provide a useful shield against radiant heat and embers.
Defendable space limits your exposure to flames and radiant heat but it does not protect you from ember attack. You will need to do a range of other preparations to reduce the impact of embers on your house.
For further information, go to www.cfa.vic.gov.au or phone the Victorian Bushfire Information Line on 1800 240 667.