What If I Can't Leave During A Fire?
Fires are unpredictable and plans can fail eg fires can travel quickly and block roads before official warnings can be disseminated. In isolated villages like Mt Wilson and Mt Irvine with only one road in and out you must expect this possibility and prepare for the risk. A back up plan should be part of your written Bushfire Survival Plan as it can help you act when faced with this emergency and save your life if caught in a fire.
The best option if you cannot leave is a well prepared property. See our advice on Prepare Your Property. If your home is not defendable and you yourself are not able to defend then your Bushfire Survival Plan will need to note other local options such as a better prepared neighbour's property or a clear paddock. Travelling during a fire is extremely dangerous (NSW Rural Fire Service – Plan and Prepare - Travelling in a Bushfire Area) so make sure your choice of alternative shelter is close by and know the safest route (preferably more than one).
Radiant heat is the main cause of dying during a fire and the main reason it is so dangerous to be in the open or caught in a car. It can kill from hundreds of metres away. Radiant heat can crack and break windows thus allowing embers to enter. Radiant heat can be blocked by a solid object or barrier such as a concrete wall or building, although it will travel through glass. Covering all exposed skin with clothing can offer some basic protection. pdf Checklist 6 in the Bushfire Survival Plan (470 KB) will tell you the best sort of clothing to have available.
If you decide to stay you must defend actively, keeping a lookout for embers ( pdf Bushfire Survival Plan Checklist 3 As the Fire Approaches (470 KB) ). During the passing of a fire front you will need to shelter inside ( pdf Bushfire Survival Plan Checklist 4 During the Fire (470 KB) ). Make sure you have more than one exit from the room and can see what is happening outside but stay away from windows. Bathrooms with their one exit and small frosted windows can be the least safe room in a house.
What to do if a bushfire is imminent
Have a battery operated radio and listen to news reports for any warnings. When a fire is imminent there are a number of precautions that the householder can do to increase the likelihood of the property surviving.
Stay calm - stick to the plan you have developed.
Put on long-sleeved clothes of fire resistant (natural fibres - cotton or wool) material. Wear enclosed footwear and a hat. Cover exposed skin. Keep wet towels and woollen blankets for personal protection. Overalls are recommended for everyone.
Close all doors and windows. Block gaps around doors and windows with wet towels.
Plug down pipes and fill gutters with water. You can use plastic bags filled with sand.
Fill all tubs and sinks with water. Place a ladder near the manhole to your roof access. Place buckets of water in the roof spaces. Check the roof space regularly for fire or sparks.
Seal all vents. Close blinds and curtains, move furniture away from windows.
If you have a petrol/diesel powered pump, hose and alternate water source, start it now and wet down buildings and surrounding vegetation. If there is sufficient time and water, hose any dry underfloor areas or crevices where sparks and embers may enter. Pay particular attention to any areas where there may still be fine fuels, such as mulched garden beds.
Keep children and pets inside.
When the fire actually arrives, retreat inside to the side of the house away from the fire until the front (the hottest and most intense part of fire) has passed then inspect your property for any fires started by embers lodging in gutters, timber etc.
Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.
Watch for sparks entering the house. Your house provides a safer refuge than fleeing at the last minute.
However, if directed to evacuate by the police, you should go as they direct.
Remember that Integral Energy may turn off power before a fire arrives.
You can ring the Fire Station on 4756 2040 to get recorded status updates - in addition your Street Coordinator will be fully briefed as to the latest situation, and will pass that information on to all people within their designated area.
If caught outdoors in a bushfire
Try to move away from the fire by going across the slope and then downhill away from the fire
Never try to outrun a fire by going uphill (Bushfires travel faster uphill)
Never attempt to run through a fire unless:
- The flames are only small - less than 1.2m (4 feet)
- You can see safe ground close by
Try to shelter from the fire by seeking bare ground or recently burnt ground.
Look for a refuge from radiated heat. This could be a creek bed, rock, trench or hollow.
Remove as much combustible material as possible.
Keep low to the ground and cover every exposed body part. The more cover the better!
If trapped in a vehicle in a bushfire
Pull over to the side of the road away from the fire and away from heavy fuel loads. Stop the vehicle and leave your engine running.
Wind up the windows and close all vents, turn off the air conditioning. Keep low and cover yourself and any exposed skin (use blankets or towels etc.)
Turn on your hazard lights and leave the head and tail lights on and sound your horn periodically.
Conditions inside the car may get very hot but you are protected from radiant heat inside the car and should be safe for the time it takes a bushfire to pass.
Take care that exposed metal, such as door handles, may be very hot to touch.
A petrol tank is extremely unlikely to explode.
An LPG tank may vent with lots of noise and may flame, but will not explode unless exposed to a high level of heat for an extended period of time.
After the fire has passed your house
Systematically patrol inside and outside looking for any embers or spot fires including up in the roof space. Check your neighbours house too - if it catches fire, your house may be in danger.
The fire front, although very hot for a short period , will usually pass quickly.
Many houses do not burn down until several hours after the main fire has passed because owners have not thoroughly patrolled their homes.
Keep a close watch on embers and sparks from adjoining trees. If it is still smoky, use a damp towel or cloth to cover your face and protect your eyes.
Check ceiling area through the manhole and from the exterior. Use a hose, knapsack spray or buckets of water to extinguish burning embers on the outside of your home.