Friday, 30 January 2009

Being Fire Ready

As we head into our 3rd day in the 40s, another total fire ban across the state, and a decent breeze blowing around my thought turn even more to the threat of bushfire. The downside to living where we do is that the lovely bush around us becomes a threat at this time of year. So we have to have a Fire plan, and be fire ready. Not something we ever had to worry about when living in England!!

The CFA (Country Fire Authority) holds fire ready meetings early in the season in and around our area which I always try and attend. It's a good refresher course to make sure our plan has everything covered. They also have very useful website, and Living in the Bush kit its and an interactive CD Rom to help in your fire planning.

In Victoria we have the right to choose if we stay and defend our property, or leave. We can not be forcibly evacuated if fire threatens. But with that choice comes responsibility. We need to have a plan, and most importantly we need to stick to it. We also have a responsibility not to do stupid things that put the lives of emergency service workers in danger (like deciding to leave at the last minute). We also have to be responsible for ourselves and our property. Although they will always do their best, there is no guarantee that the CFA would be able to be here to help us defend our property from fire, and we can't necessarily rely on Elvis being around (not Elvis the king, Elvis the sky crane waterbombing helicopter) . So we have to be prepared. Our Fire plan is to stay and defend the house. As such, we have each year refined and added to our firefighting arsenal and our plans.

The biggest component of our firefighting equipment is our firepump, sprinkler system, and fire fighting tank. The pump runs on unleaded petrol, and will operate our sprinklers in the event we lose power (extremely likely in a bushfire as the substation is in our paddock!). The tank holds 22,500L of water. We fill it up at the end of November then disconnect it from the house system so it stays full and available for fire fighting. This tank should give us a couple of hours to run the sprinklers - more than enough. We also keep the two hill tanks (45,000L in total) topped up so they would be available too. The trick will be not to start the sprinklers too early. We have sprinklers all around the house, and they go 180 or 360 degrees around. We also have gutter plugs to put in the gutters before filling them with water.

Next is the handheld firefighting equipment - which would mostly be used to put out spot fires once the front had passed. On each side of the verandah we have a 250L drum filled with water. This would be used to refill our spray backpacks, waterpistols (The CFA say these are great for "mopping up" around the house - Jerry was delighted! ) a mop could also be put in them and then used to damp down timbers.

A few years ago I replaced the bark chip mulch with stones, to reduce the fuel load close to the house, and we also do our best to keep the immediate house area clear of leaf debris, and to keep the gutters clear.

We have our fire clothing - overalls, long sleeved cotton shirts, face masks, sturdy gloves, hats, and sturdy boots. We will not be insane people watering our house in shorts and thongs! We also have
  • a battery operated radio
  • an old fashioned phone so if we lose power we can still make calls
  • torches
  • enough food stockpiled in the house to last a few weeks at least
  • we're members of a local bushfire telephone tree
And the last part of our fire plan - insurance. We are resigned to the fact that if a fire comes, we will have our hands full defending the house. The sheds, cars and contents we will no doubt lose - we can't manage it all. If fire breaks out there will be a few things we bring into the house, but the's insured and replaceable.

So there you have it - that's an overview of our fire plans and preparations. Fingers crossed we never have to put it into action!

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