Flames, radiant heat, flying embers… Risk can vary greatly based on your location and surrounds, but put simply, there is no house in the Blue Mountains that is immune from the impact of a bush fire. A bit of hard yakka will pay you back in volumes during a bush fire event.
It’s time to give your yard a spring makeover
Here are five simple things you can do before and during the bush fire season. Lets start with an empty green bin, a sharp pair of secateurs, and heavy duty garden gloves. This photo on the right is the result of two hours work for two people. A perfect excuse to get out in the outdoors and enjoy a little fresh air.
5 things to do:
Trim back branches overhanging your roof and gutters. Prune out dead and dry vegetation.
Clear and remove all the debris and leaves from the gutters and valleys in your roof. Rake up piles of leaves.
Mow the lawn and clear up the clippings. Keep the grass and garden beds short and neat.
Remove material that can burn around your home (e.g. Door mats, wood piles, mulch, leaves).
Prepare a sturdy hose or hoses that will reach all around your home. Make sure you’ve got a reliable source of water. Keep your hoses on carry hooks so you can keep them out of the elements when not is use.
Celebrate your hard work! OK so we forgot there is a 6th task! Cheers to a safe season for us all. Brag to your friends and family about how good your yard looks and how much safer we will be over spring and summer.
Here is a list of the 7 most common problem materials around the home. A single burning ember can ignite any of these:
- Wooden or brush fences.
- Wood piles.
- Dense, dry or dead shrubs and small trees.
- Branches overhanging a building.
- Leaf litter, piles of leaves.
- Door mats and furniture.
- Fuel and chemicals like paint cans.
Give these things special attention in your yard. As the saying goes “If in doubt chuck it out”.
Paints, fuels and chemicals should be secured in a shed or garage to reduce the risk of them being exposed to radiant heat. It’s best to be minimalist with these things, if you don’t need them, take them to the tip for safe disposal. How zen will you feel getting rid of all that rubbish!
A quick tidy can dramatically reduce your risk of embers catching and it looks great!
Garden hacks for bush fire safety
Mulch: Instead of using bark chips and mulch in garden beds around the house, try using ‘living mulch’ ground covering varieties including succulents. Regular mulch will dry out and break down quickly making it more combustible.
Hedges: Thick hedges on the back fence line are an awesome privacy screen and also block strong winds. With the right plant selection hedges can also block radiant heat and sometimes embers but you should seek expert advice. Keep them well trimmed, prune out dead bits regularly and clear the ground underneath them to stop ground fire spreading up into the leaves.
Plants: Choose plants that are hardy and low maintenance for the area around the house. Keep a gap of 2 meters or more between the tops of shrubs and the lowest tree branches. Plants with large glossy leaves and smooth bark pose less of a fire risk, so long as the plants sap does not contain combustible oils – ask your nursery.
Trees: Take time when planning your outdoor living space, before you plant a tree, find out how tall it will grow and how long it will live. Keep taller trees with spreading branches that can overhang your roof at least 10 meters away from your house. If you are worried a tree might fall on your house, seek advice from a tree lopper. Restrictions apply to the removal of trees across the Blue Mountains- find out more on the BMCC website. If you are concerned about next door you can report a bush fire hazard or get advice from the Rural Fire Service.
Wood Piles: Keep your wood piles neatly stacked, covered and away from your walls. Stacked between posts with a tin sheet roof or against metal fencing will work well. You need to be able to see if embers have gotten into it and be able to quickly contain or isolate it if the pile does catch alight.
Remember, it’s your responsibility to take care of your patch of our incredible Blue Mountains.
We really hope you have enjoyed this invitation to reconnect with the outdoors. Let’s all welcome spring with a chorus of lawn mowers and “G’day mates” as you and your neighbours get out and soak up the sunshine.
Just in case you need another push to ember-proof your yard and home check out the ’57 fires case study…
Case study: 60 property losses due to ember attack
On 2 December 1957 the village of Leura suffered 60 property losses from burning embers alone. There were more properties lost from direct flames and radiant heat.
The things you do this week will give your place a better chance of surviving an ember attack, direct flame and radiant heat.
Embers cause such major damage when they get into piles of leaves, or into soft furnishings via open windows and go unnoticed or unchecked, starting larger fires. In the event of a bush fire emergency they rain down and squall around like snow in the wind. Numerous and unstoppable.
Find out more about what to do during a bush fire: deciding whether to stay or go and what to do if it’s too late to leave.