Your plan must be prepared and practised with all members of your family or household before the start of the bushfire season. You need to know how long it will take to prepare yourself and your house and to find all your kits. Practise packing the car so it is quick and everything fits – including the pets! Your Bushfire Survival Plan should include a list of what you will take or store and what you will pack it in. This way you can avoid dithering and a rising sense of panic as you race to complete everything in time. Fires can move very quickly.

Circumstances change so review your plan each year before the bushfire season starts. Keep it in an easy to find place and make sure everyone in the family knows where it is. Share your plan with your wider family, friends and neighbours so that when there is a bushfire they will know that you are prepared and know where to find you.

If you see smoke or fire ring 000

Fires can threaten suddenly and without warning and you may need to act decisively the moment you know that there is danger. Your written Bushfire Survival Plan will help you stay clear headed about what needs to be done.

Contact your local Street Coordinator to advise your situation and intentions and learn conditions in your area. If your street coordinator is unavailable your Community Engagement Team will be based at the Mt Wilson Station or Village Hall. You can call them or drop in if you are returning or leaving the villages. That way we can be certain that everyone is safe.

You can also stay informed via ABC radio and TV or NSW Rural Fire Service website under Fire Information. It is always advisable to have several options for receiving information, if only to reassure yourself that what you are hearing is correct.

Do not fantasize that someone will knock on your door and tell you what to do. Do not wait for a warning before acting. During the 2013 State Mine Fire the warning that fire was impacting on Mt Wilson and Mt Irvine arrived as residents were defending their properties.

Making the decision to 'stay and defend' or 'leave early' can be difficult and can therefore be paralysing because you do not want to get it wrong. Research tells us that writing a plan in advance and identifying in the plan any triggers for action (such as finding out tomorrow's Fire Danger Ratings) are the best assistance for acting in the face of an emergency. Even if you decide to 'Wait and See' there are still pdf important actions you must take (470 KB) to ensure your safety.

"A plan to wait until you see how bad things are is a plan to flee at the last moment and maybe die on the road or to die in an unprepared house"

Understanding the risks that lead to bushfire and how bushfires behave will help you to understand how to prepare your property. A more intense fire will generate more heat, be harder to control and cause more damage. Fire intensity depends on three main factors: vegetation, weather and topography.

Vegetation

Vegetation is a fire's main fuel source. Fine fuel (leaves, bark, twigs, grass) burn rapidly and give off heat fast. They provide much of the heat energy and are largely consumed by the front of the fire. Heavier fuels (branches, logs, trees) burn more slowly and give off heat more slowly, continuing to burn for hours, if not days, after the front has passed.
Fine fuel and dense undergrowth increase the risk and intensity of bushfires. Shrubs, low hanging branches and fibrous dry bark can catch fire and preheat fuel above them, assisting fire to climb higher in trees adding to both the height of flames and the heat of the fire. Fire in treetops (crown fire) moves the fastest and is most dangerous.

Weather

Weather conditions such as extreme heat, low humidity and strong winds dramatically increase the likelihood of fires, their intensity and their spread, once started. Winds have a significant influence as they dry out the bush and fan flames. They increase the intensity of the fire by providing more oxygen and throw embers ahead of the fire front causing new fires (spot fires) to ignite. Strong winds can carry larger items such as branches, roof tiles or outdoor furniture which can break windows or remove parts of roof and walls thereby letting embers into the house.

Topography

Fires burn faster uphill because the flames can reach more unburnt fuel and because the heat radiating from the fire will preheat more fuel on the slope above the fire. Generally, for every 10° of uphill slope the fire doubles its rate of spread. Conversely, for every 10° of downhill slope, the fire will halve its speed. The most dangerous home sites are on ridge tops and steep slopes. North facing slopes also receive more direct sunlight which dries out vegetation and can result in more intense fires.
Rugged terrain can set air eddying, fanning flames more erratically and making a fire harder to control. Topography can also affect access, with narrow roads making it difficult for residents to get out quickly or fire trucks to get in.

The Bushfire Period is usually from 1 October to 31 March. In the Blue Mountains fire usually occurs from spring to midsummer after our dry winters. Further south fire occurs in late summer as winters are usually wet and summers hot and dry. You need to be particularly alert to the risk of fire if:

What do all these messages mean?

A Total Fire Ban (TOBAN) tells you what you can or can't do on days when, if a fire starts, it will spread rapidly and be out of control.
Fire Danger Ratings tell you how dangerous a fire will be if it starts.
Alerts tell you that a fire has started and how threatening it can be. This level of threat can change suddenly.
Emergency warnings tell you that you that fire is about to impact and what action to take.

If fire threatens and you and your property are not prepared, the best option is to LEAVE EARLY.

Regardless of your decision to 'Leave Early' or 'Stay and Defend' you still need to prepare your property against the threat of bush fire. The reasons include the following:

  •  A well prepared property is more likely to survive a bush fire
  •  A well prepared property is easier for you and your family to defend
  •  A well prepared property is easier for fire fighters to defend (make sure there is access for their vehicles and they can reach your water supply)
  •  A well prepared property provides better protection for you and your family if you have not had time or opportunity to 'leave early'
  •  A well prepared property is less of a bushfire threat to your neighbours
  •  Nothing replaces family mementoes, photos or favourite toys lost in a fire
  •  Insurance does not cover the hassle, time, emotion and effort involved in the rebuilding/replacement/repairing process
  •  Insurance does not cover the cost of everything

The Mt Wilson and Mt Irvine Residents pdf Property Protection Checklist (408 KB)  summarises what you may need to do to prepare your property before and during the bushfire season. Further information can be found on the NSW Rural Fire Service website under 'Plan and Prepare - Prepare Your Home'.

If vegetation needs to be cleared and burned please check the topic Hazard Reductions and Pile Burns on this website.

YOUR PROPERTY, YOUR FUEL, YOUR RESPONSIBILITY

Subcategories

This brief history of fire was compiled with the assistance of Beth, Peter, Keith and Libby Raines, Paul and Helen Naylor and Ruth and Bill Scrivener.