As a bushfire consultancy company based on the South Coast of NSW, we thought it may be a good time to provide some simple information itemising key things you could do around your house to help prevent the total loss of your home in the event of another bad fire season.
For the past 15 years, Bowantz Bushfire & Environmental have watched the Australian bushland slowly dry out and change into the current condition that drove the devastating fires over the recent months. As residents of the Eurobodalla Shire, we know how it feels to be repeatedly displaced, as the fires of the past summer relentlessly threatened us and our homes. We were individually impacted like our community by the fires, losing some ancillary buildings & equipment, but luckily we managed to save our houses and maintained the safety of all of our staff members.
6 ways to be bushfire prepared:
Timber decks are a large trap for ember attack and burning debris. As with most home builds or renovations, decks are an added feature at the end of a project when the budget is tight! Pine decking is often more than 50% cheaper to install as a top floor covering opposed to an Australian hardwood decking material. Pine timber decks have almost the perfect gap between the boards to trap burning embers and fire debris that are then fanned by the prevailing winds of the fire and ultimately igniting the deck. This ignited deck will then often burn to a wall, up the wall then into your roof space. Unfortunately, this usually means it’s too late.
An alternative to retrofit your existing pine timber deck would be to remove the pine top floor covering and replace it with one of the following products to your existing structural framework, as long as the framework is still structurally sound. This would greatly improve your homes chance of survival in an ember attack.
- Biowood® Premium BAL-29 Architectural Decking
- Modwood® Flameshield Decking applications from BAL-12.5 to BAL-40
- HardieDeck® Decking applications to BAL-Flame Zone
Vegetation adjacent to the facades of the building
A large percentage of existing homes on the South Coast were constructed before 2006 when the Australian Standards for buildings changed (AS-3959-2009) after the introduction of Planning for Bushfire Protection 2006 or (PBP-2006). This left a lot of people’s homes built in bushfire prone land with no real consideration or knowledge of the impact of a bushfire. Landscaping pre-2006 and beyond also saw a huge number of homes with planted vegetation surrounding the outskirts of the dwelling to `soften‘ the look of the new home. Over time most of this vegetation has grown and deposited a large amount of litter and debris beneath itself and adjacent to the dwelling. Now we have an issue. Having combustible plant material and mulch against the side of your home is a large area for embers to be trapped and begin an ignition point. Radiant heat from nearby fires can also ignite flammable plant materials from large distances away.
The best solution to this threat is to remove all combustible material (plants and mulch) that are directly adjacent to the dwelling. Either replace them with pathways or non-combustible plants such as succulents and a non-combustible mulch such as gravel or decomposed granite.
Timber fences are often the first thing to burn in the event of a fire front arriving at your property boundary. Most homes that have timber fences as a boundary fence also have a return to the house separating the front yard from the back yard. This return to the house can work as a perfect ladder for the burning boundary fence to track to your home and up under your eaves into the roof space.
Replacing the timber fence with a Colorbond® fence or non-combustible material would be the best option. Alternatively, simply replacing the return to the house section of the fence with a Colorbond® or non-combustible material fence would eliminate the direct path of the fire along your fence lines and impact on your home.
Storage of combustible material under decks
Post-fire analysis and investigations surrounding home loss to bushfire suggest that a large number of total losses are due to clutter or storage of `stuff ’ in that space that looks perfect under the deck. This seemingly perfect storage space is normally sitting directly below the timber frame structure of the home above. If the home is impacted by flame contact or ember attack this storage area can become the perfect ignition point to start a fire in the structure of your house.
A great alternative is to enclose this space to make it resistant to ember attack and flame contact. Enclosing these storage areas with a non-combustible material and installing a door will greatly reduce the risk of this becoming a point of ignition in the event of a bushfire attack, whilst not losing that valuable storage space. Removing the clutter or `stuff ’ is also another good option should you have the room to place it somewhere not as exposed.
Install Gutter guards
There are hundreds of products on the market that claim to be effective gutter guards, which makes it tough to find high quality gutter guards that protect your home. Installing a good quality gutter guard could be the difference between a spot fire starting in your gutters or not. Once a decent spot fire starts in your gutters it is only a matter of time until it is in your roof space. I have personally installed several poorly designed gutter guards in my own home over the past 20 years, some have worked to their purpose and some simply help to trap leaves making it harder to remove build-up. Below are a couple of good quality gutter guards we have trialled.
- Leaf Stopper Gutter Guards
- Blue Mountain Co Gutter Mesh
- Gutter Guard – GD2U Premium Woven Ember Guard Aluminium Mesh. Rated up to BAL-FZ (Flame Zone)
Be Fire Prepared
Any amount of preparation is a good start. With our climate seemingly getting dryer and warmer with an increasing length in the bushfire season, we all need to be more aware of our risk to environmental factors including bushfire risk. Our experienced team of bushfire consultants, ecologists and environmental planners have a holistic approach when it comes to living within our adapting landscape. Bowantz offers a Bushfire Risk Assessment Service among other services for people who are concerned about potential bushfire risk and looking at ways to reduce their exposure to better protect their families and homes in the event of another bad bushfire season.
Give us a call today 0423 524 690 to discuss how we might be able to help. For more information about our available Bushfire Assessment services click here.
*Please note, we have no affiliation with the 3rd party products highlighted in this article.