Sunday, December 13, 2009
Fire in the Grose Valley. Photographer Will Barton.
Over the weekend we were reminded about our vulnerability to bushfires.Another fire burning in the national park approximately 3km from my home. This is the 2nd fire in as many weeks, and we seem to be experiencing them every year.
So what are we to do? It's frankly ridiculous to rely on emergency services. If you do you run the risks of serious injury, loss of assets and even death. So, you must have a plan and discuss this with the family.
The terrain of the Blue Mountains were the latest fire is.
This is what I have in place. I stress it might not save my home but.....
1. Have a plan for escape. Know the safest way to depart your home.
2. Choose to stay and fight or go. In my families case they are all to leave and I stay (unless directed by emergency services to leave).
3. Always have your home prepared.. its no use jumping on your roof, stressed, running around trying to clear gutters or leaves and debris as the fire approaches.
4. Keep your gardens clean and clear always.
5. Have the following items (this is based on having a water tank and or pool)
a. A quality fire fighting pump and hoses with reels long enough to reach the extremities of the property. These can run 2 lines and are portable. in my case if the water tank runs low I can detach and move it to the pool.
b. A quality generator. Very often the power is cut in a fire and if its not, its advisable to cut the power at the box anyway- this reduces the chance of electricity adding to your woes. The generator can run your fridge, a light and the electric pump on your tank.
c. A chain saw. Vital to cut away any trees, branches that may fall.
d. A couple of deep buckets, and domestic buckets with string mops.
e. Fire extinguisher for electrical fires.
f. A blower vac to blow/remove leaves from gutters
g. some form of plug to block your down pipes from the gutters.
h. A good ladder
A Davey fire fighting pump.
Clothing:- Wear a singlet, tee shirt, a shirt (made of cotton not synthetic), and a woolen jumper. Jeans or woolen pants, woolen socks and boots plus leather or cotton gloves. Over this some overalls if you can. These items will shield you from the radiant heat- you can soak yourself with water and wool is a great fire retardant.
B. Wear a face mask- smoke can/will choke and inhaling hot air can burn your lungs.
C. Wear goggles, for the same reason.
You must have these items all within easy access. If you are in a panic/hurry there is nothing worse than not being able to find these items.
Now what do you do? You have been advised to act:- I ensure that:-
1. The bath is full of water, Sinks are full of water, laundry tubs and all buckets are full of water.
2.String mops are in large buckets and place at front and rear of house.
3. There are a supply of towels and blankets which are WET! Theses can be placed around windows and doors and can be used to smother flames. A large wet blanket can shield you if you need to escape.
4. The fire hoses are unrolled and in place- these items are heavy when full of water, so best to have them in position.
5. Have your ladder at the roof for ease of access
6. Knowing that your gutters are clean- block the down pipes and fill the gutters with water.
7. Remove the man hole cover so you can gain access to inspect the roof cavity. many fires are buring inside your home from embers blowing under tiles.. by keeping an eye on it you can act asap.
8. If you have the money- a good quality sprinkler system is a boon!
The embers are falling what to do? In my home I do not have town water, so every drop counts in the fight- its no use blasting a few small spot fires with you fire hoses. Use appropriate methods and suit the attack. Eg A wet blanket is brilliant at smothering fire, or a string mop. On small embers use a bucket.
Constantly check your roof. Of course you have "safe" easy, access and your hose is there ready do put out the embers.
If the fire increases so too, should your level. eg use a garden hose and finally your fire fighting hoses, and if you have it- turn on your sprinkler system.
You need enough water for 20 minutes -30 minutes of heavy attack.
Grose Valley Fire at night. Photographer Will Barton
Know where the fire is coming from:-
If you do not you cannot plan your escape should the fire be too intense. In my case driving out my driveway is not an option as the fires are generally predicted from the south/west. for me escape is across my back yard- through my neighbours place to where my car is parked in an open area.
I stress this is absolutely LAST resort.
I am sure the Rural fire service would have better/ more advice. I have to say- looking at the lack of readiness from some I am not sure if people care or are concerned.. I just wonder how many would blame the services of failure should there house burn down?