Total Fire Bans (TOBAN)

A total fire ban is declared because of extreme weather conditions. They are declared on days when fires are most likely to spread rapidly, threaten lives and property and be difficult to control. A TOBAN is usually declared the afternoon before to ensure that they are based on the most accurate weather forecasts. It usually starts at midnight and lasts 24 hours.

When a TOBAN is declared it is illegal to do anything that could or is likely to start a fire. The ban includes all open fires for the purposes of cooking and camping and all fire permits are suspended.

To find out when Total Fire bans have been declared check NSW Rural Fire Service Fire Information - Fire Danger Ratings and Total Fire Bans.When a TOBAN has been declared, signs are placed by your brigade at the top of the Zig Zag, Mt Wilson Station, Cathedral Reserve and Happy Valley.

Fire Danger Ratings

The Fire Danger Rating (FDR) is an assessment of the potential fire behaviour, the difficulty of suppressing a fire and the potential impact on the community should a bushfire occur. It is an early indicator of potential danger and should be your first trigger for action.

The FDR is determined by the Fire Danger Index (FDI). The FDI was developed at CSIRO in the 1960s to measure the degree of danger of fire in Australian forests. The FDI is a combination of air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and drought. An FDI of 1 (Low-Moderate) means that the fire will not burn, or will burn so slowly that it will be easily controlled, whereas an FDI in excess of 100 (Catastrophic) means that the fire will burn so fast and so hot that it is uncontrollable. The FDI is calculated by the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) for each region. Mt Wilson and Mt Irvine are included in 'Greater Sydney Region'.

Rating Index
Catastrophic 100+
Extreme 75-99
Severe 50-74
Very High 25-49
High 12-24
Low to moderate 0-11

 

The conditions of the Black Friday fires of 1939 were used as the example of a 100 rating. The Black Saturday fires of 2009 reached ratings of 120 to 190. There is also an index for grasslands.

The Fire Danger Meter (FDM) has become an icon of rural Australia as most towns have an FDM on their outskirts. The FDM for Mt Wilson and Mt Irvine is located outside the Mt Wilson fire shed.

For further information of Fire Danger Ratings check the NSW Rural Fire Service website under Plan and Prepare - Fire Danger Ratings.

The Mt Wilson/Mt Irvine Rural Fire Brigade has established a network of Street Coordinators who have volunteered to assist both the brigade and local residents/property owners in the event of a significant fire threat.

The Street Coordinators are on hand to give other residents as much local information as possible to help them make their decisions. In addition, the Coordinators will update the Brigade on the whereabouts and intentions of people in their area and the conditions at their property to assist the Fire Services in prioritising their operational plans.

When fire threatens, please contact your local Street Coordinator to advise them of your situation. Street Coordinators will be regularly updated with the progress of any fire and should be your first port of call for obtaining local information. If you have a rental property, please advise tenants of the bushfire risk as well as advising the street coordinator of their existence and intentions.

Once the fire threat is over please contact your street coordinator to advise your situation or your return to Mt Wilson or Mt Irvine. Your Street Coordinators are:

Area Location Street Coordinators
1 Mt Irvine Brian Carrigan, Bruce Kerridge
2 Mill Rd, Wynnes Rocks Rd, Hollyridge, Noonameena, Killaloo Alice Simpson, Peter Laving
3 Queens Ave, Wyndham Ave and The Avenue (Breenhold to Milparra), Waterfall Rd, Wynstay Anne Pigott
4 Church Lane,  The Avenue (Hay Lane to Mt Irvine Rd) Robert Nicol, Peter Anderson
5 Mt Irvine Rd (Wollartukkee to The Old Mill), Hillcrest Lane, Galwey Lane, Davies Lane, Shadforth Rd, Beowang Rd, Lambs Hill

Richard Beattie, Alex Halliday

6 Farrer Rd East & West, Smiths Rd, Field Selection Wendy Holland, Judy Tribe

As a result of the tragic 2009 fires in Victoria, the NSW Rural Fire Service has embarked on a program of developing Community Protection Plans for vulnerable towns and villages in NSW. Mt Wilson was chosen to be part of the trial as an example of a village located in a heavily forested area with only one access road. The plan was completed by NSW RFS staff with assistance from the Mt Wilson/Mt Irvine Rural Fire Brigade. Data for a plan for Mt Irvine is currently being collected with the hope that a draft will be available in 2014.

The overall aim of the Community Protection Plans is to 'improve community and fire fighter capacity to prepare, act and survive bushfires'. The Plan consists of three maps:

    1. Operational Brigade map (for Brigade only) – provides brigades and other fire fighting agencies with important operational data such as fire trails, water supplies, community assets, helipads, communication towers, neighbourhood safer places etc
    2. pdf Bush Fire Preparation map (5.22 MB) – provides information for land managers, fire agencies and the community on details of existing and proposed bush fire risk treatment works for the community. It shows past and planned hazard reduction works
    3. pdf Bush Fire Survival map (3.58 MB) – the most interesting map for residents as it provides vital information for preparing a Bushfire Survival Plan such as indicating the possible impact on your property of a fire as well as leave early options and neighbourhood safer places.

The Bush Fire Survival Map shows the effects of a fire (direct flame, radiation heat or ember attack) when the Fire Danger Rating is 'catastrophic' and fire is coming from all directions. This is an extreme case and one not yet experienced here (since white settlement). Nevertheless, bushfire conditions do not need to be 'catastrophic' for fires to destroy properties and lives. The Fire Danger Rating at the outset of the 2013 State Mine Fire was 'extreme' and that fire destroyed 2 properties and numerous sheds, fences and equipment and came close to burning all round Mt Wilson and Mt Irvine. The map is extremely useful for showing you the worst case scenario for your property as well as last resort options.

For further information on Fire Danger Ratings check the subtopic on this website or the NSW RFS website under Plan and Prepare – Fire Danger Ratings.

Welcome to living at Mt Wilson & Mt Irvine! Most people choose to live here for lifestyle reasons – they love the peace and quiet, the charm of the villages and their well-maintained gardens and the beauty and fascination of the flora and fauna of the surrounding bush. There are opportunities to pursue hobbies such as gardening, entertaining or bushwalking or just having a break from the buzz of work and city life.

In time you will realise that there are some lifestyle changes that you weren't expecting but are necessary for dealing with those particular challenges of living in the upper Blue Mountains such as leeches, wombats and power outages. The biggest lifestyle change from living in the city comes with the awareness that you now live in one of the most bushfire prone areas in the world and that it is your responsibility to take action to protect yourself, your loved ones and your property.

To best understand the impact that fire could have on your property you can look at the pdf Bush Fire Survival map (3.58 MB)  under Community Protection Plans on this website. This shows, on a day of catastrophic fire conditions, whether your house will be impacted by direct flame, radiation heat or embers. In these conditions nowhere in Mt Wilson is guaranteed to be safe. It is hoped that maps for Mt Irvine will be available in 2014.

To assist you to best prepare for and survive a bushfire emergency, the brigade has developed a plan for all residents to follow. We call it the '7 Habits of Highly Effective Bushfire Survival Planning'. The use of the word 'habit' is quite deliberate as this plan now needs to become a regular part of your life in the Mounts. The 7 habits are:

  1. Write  a Bushfire Survival Plan
  2. Prepare Your Property
  3. Know the History of Fire at Mt Wilson & Mt Irvine
  4. Understand Fire Behaviour
  5. Recognise Fire Danger Days
  6. Act When Fire Threatens
  7. Review & Rehearse Your Plan Before the Bushfire Season

Please take time to read through each habit and, most important of all, act on these recommendations to give yourself, your family and your property the best chance of surviving a bushfire.

The NSW Rural Fire Service website is a great source of information on all aspects of dealing with bushfires and provides the latest information on any incidents. If you would like to learn more about bushfire behaviour and strategies for dealing with such emergencies you could do no better than Join the Brigade. Your contribution to the safety of our community will be rewarding and greatly appreciated.

Hazard Reductions

Under the Rural Fires Act, 1997, land managers and owners are responsible for carrying out hazard reduction to protect existing dwellings, major buildings or other assets susceptible to fire. Effective hazard reduction is one way to reduce the risk of damage to homes and structures by bushfire. The RFS Commissioner has the authority to order all owners and managers of private, commercial and government land to conduct essential hazard reductions.

Agencies such as National Parks, State Forests and local Council reduce hazards on their property according to strategies in the Bush Fire Risk Management Plan put together by the Blue Mountains Bush Fire Management Committee.

Private landholders or occupiers must also reduce hazards on their property. If hazards are not reduced, the RFS can issue a notice (Section 66) requiring a private landowner or manager to reduce fuel loads.

The RFS offers advice and assistance on hazard reduction. RFS volunteers often do hazard reduction work to help protect their communities, but it is not their legal responsibility to do so, because the RFS does not own or manage land. Volunteers work with private landholders, National Parks, State Forests and NSW Fire Brigades to do hazard reduction on a range of land tenures.

To learn more about hazard reductions click on the NSW Rural Fire Service website.

To learn more about past and planned hazard reductions at Mt Wilson click on the Community Protection Plan - pdf Bush Fire Preparation map (5.22 MB)  on this website

In Mt Wilson and Mt Irvine private properties rarely require large scale burns to reduce hazards. For residents here, reducing the risk of bushfire is mainly achieved by maintaining cleared space around the house and properly maintaining the garden. This can result in a pile of dead vegetation (a bushfire risk) and, if it cannot be chipped, mulched or taken to the tip, the best way to dispose of it is to undertake a pile burn.

Pile Burns

When I was a kid almost every Sunday afternoon Dad would light the incinerator. So too did a lot of other dads which resulted in a thick cloud of pollution over Sydney where we lived. The restrictions that are now placed on the burning off of garden waste are mainly an attempt to control pollution. In the Blue Mountains this is the responsibility of Blue Mountains City Council and generally pile burns are not allowed

After community consultation, the BMCC has granted certain outlying areas (including Mt Wilson and Mt Irvine) approval to conduct pile burns as long as certain conditions are met. Oversight of this process has been handed to the Blue Mountains District Office of the NSW Rural Fire Service in Katoomba. It is vitally important that these conditions are abided by as failure to do so could see the withdrawal of this concession. During the non-bushfire period (usually 1 April to 30 September) the process, in brief, is as follows:

  1. Give your neighbours and District Office (4784 7444) at least 24 hours' notice of your intention to light up. District Office hours are 9-5, Monday to Friday. Please remember this if you plan to burn at the weekend. You can advise District Office of up to a week of days if you are unsure of exactly which day will be the most suitable for a pile burn.
  2. On the day of the burn advise District Office that you are lighting up and when you have put out the pile burn (do not burn overnight). These calls can be made at weekends as volunteers staff the phones at this time. There is a requirement for a responsible adult to be present at all times, an adequate water supply to be available and the pile must be 20m from the nearest residential building.
  3. Ensure that your pile burn abides by the document Standards for Pile Burning, available from www.rfs.nsw.gov.au, District Office or your Brigade Community Engagement Officer. In brief, material must only be vegetation from your property, the pile should be no greater than 2m in length or width and must be no greater than 1.5m high, material must be dead and dry and no logs over 150mm in diameter.

During the bushfire season (usually 1st October to 31st March) the increased risk of bushfire means that any pile burns allowed by Council also require a permit from the District Office of the NSW Rural Fire Service. As this entails an inspection of your pile it is preferable that you give a fortnight to complete the process. Permits can be given for up to 21 days but they are usually given for a lesser period. In the event of a TOBAN (Total Fire Ban) all permits are revoked. See the Blue Mountains District NSW Rural Fire Service website for more details.

Your local brigade will do their best to protect properties in the event of a fire but they cannot be everywhere. You need to give your property the best chance of surviving on its own and being able to protect you and your family. Even if your brigade can get to your street, if they have to choose between properties, crew safety dictates that they will have to choose the better maintained and safer property to protect. So, please:

GIVE US A BREAK – ALONG YOUR BOUNDARY, AROUND YOUR HOUSE AND WATER SUPPLY AND THROUGH YOUR PROPERTY ENTRANCE