Early preparation key to bushfire season

TWO years on and the images of the devastating 2013 Dunalley bushfires are imprinted in the minds of many Tasmanians.

With the aim of preventing such a tragedy from happening again, the Tasmania Fire Service (TFS) has launched its 2015/16 Bushfire Safety Campaign.

TFS Acting Chief Officer Gavin Freeman said the campaign was extremely important as unfortunately, bushfires were and would continue to be part of the Tasmanian landscape.

“The TFS continues to encourage residents in bushfire prone areas to prepare their properties for the summer, as intense bushfires can strike with little warning,” he said.

“It is very important that residents are not complacent.

“If you live in or near bushland, you, your family and your home are at risk.”

Mr Freeman said a home or property was more likely to survive a bushfire if it was prepared properly.

“The most important job is to create a defendable space, this means having an area around your home where you have modified the vegetation and removed most flammable material to reduce the fire’s radiant heat intensity,” he said.

“If you do this flames and radiant heat from an approaching bushfire will be reduced, so sparks and embers will have less fuel to ignite when they land, and any spot fires will be easier to put out.

“A well prepared space makes it much easier to defend your home and if you choose not to stay, it will help firefighters protect your home, or may even protect your home if firefighters cannot reach it.”

As well as preparing your property, Mr Freeman said it was essential for people living in or near bushland to have a Bushfire Survival Plan, which detailed exactly how to prepare and what action to take if threatened by bushfire.

“Writing and practicing a bushfire survival plan will help you think through the actions logically, give you something to refer to and can help control fear and anxiety if a bushfire breaks out nearby,” he said.

“The plan must take into consideration the ages and physical capabilities of everyone in your household, including children and the elderly.”

Mr Freeman said once a Bushfire Survival Plan was in place, it was important for people to know what action to take when a bushfire approaches.

“People should decide well in advance of a bushfire whether they will leave or stay with their homes to defend them,” he said.

“There are two safe options when threatened by bushfire – leaving early well before the fire arrives, or staying and defending a well prepared property.

“Leaving early is always the safest option as staying to defend property during a bushfire always carries some risk of injury or death.

“When the fire danger ratings is ‘catastrophic’, you should not plan to defend your home under any circumstances.”

Mr Freeman said defending a home was a reasonable choice if:

It is well prepared.

You are physically fit and emotionally prepared.

Fire conditions are less than ‘extreme’.

“Most people who die in a bushfire are caught by the fire in the open, either in their car or on foot,” Mr Freeman said.

“Others are killed or seriously injured because they crashed in poor visibility when they left too late.

“It is very important you do not flee a bushfire at the last minute.”

The TFS is also encouraging members of the community to identify a number of safe places to relocate to at very short notice if they are caught unaware by a bushfire, or the plan to defend their home fails.

A nearby safer place could be a well prepared neighbour’s home, a nearby ploughed paddock, a sports ground or a beach.

“You should only rely on these places as a last resort,” Mr Freeman said

“It is much better to plan to leave early.”

For further information and to download your Bushfire Survival Plan Booklet visit www.fire.tas.gov.au or free call 1800 000 699.

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About the Author: Eastern Shore Sun

The Eastern Shore Sun is your monthly community newspaper, reaching over 30,000 homes and businesses in the communities of Clarence and Sorell. It is the product of Nicolas Turner, Justine Brazil, Ben Hope, Simon Andrews, Tobias Hinds and guest contributors, with support from advertisers.

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