Fires typically destroy everything in their path. If you live in a high fire-risk area, it may be impossible to prevent. What you can do is design your property so that you reduce the intensity of the fire when it reaches your home. You can do this by designing your garden to reduce heat and flames reaching your house, by creating firebreaks with gravel or dirt, and keeping plants and trees maintained.
By preparing properly, you give your house the best chance to survive fire.
Even if you plan to leave early, you can do a lot to protect your home from fire.
To reduce the risk of fire getting inside your house, you need to seal cracks and reduce weaknesses such as glass that can break during a fire. Some preparations are costly and not achievable for everyone. If you can't afford protections such as fire-resistant shutters, there are still many things you can do. Some are as simple as cutting back shrubs from your windows, or removing outdoor furniture and wood piles from near your house.
Leading up to bad fire days, don't leave things until the last minute. If you know a hot, dry, windy day is coming, start getting your property ready:
- Remove doormats from around the house
- Move combustible outdoor furniture and other items from decks, up against, or under the home
- Move pot plants a few metres from the home
- Double check that gas bottles are anchored securely with the relief valves pointing away from any flammable materials
- Mow your lawns.
- On bigger properties, a clearing of about 10 metres of well-mown grass around your home is advisable
- Walk around your home and remove piles of fine fuels such as leaves.
- It will probably be where embers will land
- Check your gutters to make sure leaves haven't built up
- Make sure you remove any fuels from around your windows and doors. These are the most vulnerable parts of your home
- Make sure trees on your property are healthy with no dead limbs and no vegetation underneath them
- Ensure your insurance is sufficient and current.
You can do a lot to reduce the flame and heat near your house by designing a garden that is fire wise and maintaining it during warmer months.
One way to reduce the speed and heat of a fire is to create spaces without any fuel. If you break up fuel such as plants, garden beds and tree canopies, the fire can't spread as easily through your property. Fire needs a path of fuel to travel so keep shrubs and plants away from the bottom of trees. Use gravel paths and non-flammable mulch and keep grass no longer than 10cm between trees, shrubs and garden beds. Prune tree branches at least two metres above the ground and keep trees separated by pruning back branches.
Choose the right plants
Although all plants will burn under the right conditions, some plants are less likely to catch fire than others. Choosing plants with low flammability and locating them correctly will help reduce the fire risk in a garden. There are seven factors to consider when choosing firewise plants:
- Plants with coarse texture are less flammable.
- Choose plants with open and loose branching as well as leaves that are thinly spread.
- Smooth bark is best as loose, stringy bark can catch fire easily.
- Plants that are dense with leaves very close together, can be more flammable because there is more to burn.
- If the leaves have a smell when crushed (such as eucalyptus, lavender and pines) they probably contain resins, oils or waxes which make them flammable.
- Wide, flat, thicker leaves, like those on camellias, are best because they usually have a high moisture content.
- If a plant is prone to having dry and dead sections, it will catch fire more easily.
Prepare your oasis for summer now.
Dial: 000 If you see smoke, flame or embers or VicEmergency Hotline for fire warnings and updates on 1800 226 226 or Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450.