01 February 2014

How prepared are you for the bushfire season?

As previously advertised, our Bushfire Preparedness Assessment exercise took place this morning.  Perfect timing - it was a day of Total Fire Ban, and a lovely sunny day.

We had a good turnout of 14 residents at first Anne's house, then Meg's, to hear Steve Bresnehan, the Hobart City Council's Fire Control Officer describe the risks to our West Hobart houses and some of the strategies for dealing with them.  Steve was a great speaker, full of good stories from his years of experience, and unfailingly good humoured about what residents are doing (nor NOT doing) to protect themselves in fire situations. His first message was that we should all start our preparations in the months BEFORE the fire season.  The TFS' "Bushfire Survival Plan" booklet is a good place to start.

The main risk we face in our suburb is from embers being blown over from a fire on Knocklofty or from further west.  And if a fire starts up below our properties it may run up the hill.  We had some animated discussions about problems we suddenly realised we had with our own homes and gardens.

From seeing the particular fire traps around these two upper West Hobart houses, we all took different messages away for our own houses and gardens.  Here are just a few examples:
  • clear flammable growth from next to the house
  • get the TFS' "Fire Resisting Garden Plants" pamphlet - and be prepared to remove some of your plants and trees 
  • use a "low flammability" mulch such as wood chips of a large-ish size
  • keep mulched beds away from directly beside the house
  • have a water supply ready, such as a filled garbage can and have a cotton house mop in it, ready to take on little spot fires
  • protect the wood heap with a fine mesh screen to stop embers entering
  • on fire ban days, water garden beds near the house and cover with something to stop the mulch flying around
  • make a bushfire plan (which should include a range of contingencies)
  • have it written down on paper in case the electricity fails or your batteries run out
  • watch for nooks of the garden where leaves tend to accumulate - this is where embers may land
  • monitor TFS fire level predictions
  • get a windup radio
  • remove flammable "matchstick blind" privacy screens e.g.:

Some of our risks come from the practices of our neighbours and from the proximity of under maintained Crown land.  There is an important opportunity available to residents in the upper areas of West Hobart:  TFS is facilitating Bushfire Readiness Neighbourhood Groups to set up and work out neighbourhood wide solutions. Perhaps some of us will get together to form one of these groups.

Thanks Anne and Meg for being our guinea pigs today!

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