Is your home at risk in the event of a bush fire? There are certain homes that are more at risk than others. Factors such as building materials, access to the home, and regular property maintenance make a huge difference.
Types of design/construction
Yes, good construction is key, especially if you live in a bushfire prone area. Brick homes are the most fire resistant. Brick walling withstands a higher level of heat radiation. In fact, when they are manufactured, bricks are fired at temperatures as hot as, or hotter than bushfires. Installing metal doors instead of timber may make a difference also. To protect doors from sparks, they should fit closely to their frames and have a snug-fitting screen door on the outside.
Homes built on concrete slabs offer more protection from an ember attack. The profile of the home is lower in these instances and less affected by wind loadings.
Homes with verandahs are more susceptible. Timber decks and balconies are difficult to protect from flames. If you have these at your home, be sure to minimise potential fuel sources around the property such as dry leaves, timber posts, trees, and garden beds.
Homes with access issues
Last year we saw the devastating effect of the widespread Fraser Island fires. Access was really a problem for firefighters as the larger fire-fighting vehicles get bogged in the sand, and using the smaller vehicles is challenging, as they cannot carry as much water. In Brisbane this can also be an issue if your property is hard to access by emergency services.
Homes in high risk locations
If your property resides next to a lot of vegetation, you are at increased risk.
Also, if you have large overhanging trees or store combustible material such as timber under the house for example you could be in trouble in the event of a fire.
Put simply, to minimise the risk of a bush fire attacking your home, remove the stuff that burns.
A Rural Fire Service report concludes, “burning embers blown ahead of a bushfire are the most common cause of bushfires lighting houses and causing damage,” (NSW Rural Fire Service). So it is very important to not give the embers a chance to ignite and get out of control.
Here’s what you can do:
Remove garden beds close to your home.
Repaint/repair worn-out timber as embers can get caught in the cracks of the wood and ignite. The same concept goes for timber decking.
Replace natural fibre door mats with synthetic. While they look great, door mats made from natural materials will stay alight for much longer and have the capacity to spread flames.
Store timber and firewood in a safe place. For example a metal shed, or enclosed metal container.
Get a professional to carry out a roof inspection regularly. Gaps and cracks in your roof or tiles are prime positions for embers to get lodged and ignite. Your roof is very susceptible to an ember attack, especially if you have combustible material laying around in your gutters. Fire can also enter the roof space via vents, skylights, and eaves. Once in the roof cavity, fire creates its own wind storm. Frighteningly, if fire gets into your roof, it can really take hold, and you risk losing your entire house.
Fire behaviour is certainly unique, and not to be underestimated. Solid design, well thought out construction, and sensible maintenance will help protect your home in a bush fire. Make sure to stay notified of fire warnings issued from your state fire authority, and have a plan in place.