Bush fire preparedness
Chris Harris, Risk and Emergency Coordinator
This summer the fire threat may in many cases be different to recent years. The predominant reason is because seasonal conditions have led to low pasture height and fuel load. The main fire threat posed will be more likely from timbered areas.
Preparing your property and livestock paddocks involves creating effective fire breaks. Mowing, grazing, brush cutting or ploughing around buildings, crops, pastures and key fence lines will greatly assist in fighting fires in summer.
Firebreaks should, where practical, be designed to avoid trees or to provide an additional break around timbered areas. Creating effective firebreaks assists in not only reducing the likelihood of fires entering your property but also is a means to prevent fire escaping from your property and causing further damage to the community.
Personal safety is the first priority in all situations. Once fire enters a timbered area apart from RFS involvement and aerial control, very little can be done to extinguish the fire especially in catastrophic conditions.
When planning, determine the most appropriate or low risk areas to move stock to give them the greatest chance of survival. Local knowledge of the terrain, the most likely direction of fire threat, accessibility, prevailing wind direction and the location in relation to timbered areas, gullies and dams should be considered.
This could include, but would not be limited to:
- bared out paddocks – paddocks that have been heavily grazed during spring or early summer
- irrigated paddocks or green summer crops – they won't burn as readily as dry feed
- paddocks containing gullies and/or dams – they may provide sufficient shelter for stock if fires move through
- yards – a low-risk option but do consider if any nearby trees pose a threat.
Once low risk areas have been selected ensure the area remains prepared and available.
The behaviour of livestock is something that must be considered in terms of priority movement. As would be expected sheep, particularly young sheep, can be difficult to move and prefer to stay in the mob situation. If the potential for fire exists they should be moved first and early.
Working dogs should also be considered – ensure grass has been mowed adjacent to kennels.
As soon as you become aware of a fire in your area (for example Watch And Act) put your bushfire plan into action. The NSW Rural Fire Service app and website ‘Fires Near Me’ is a great way to stay up to date.
NSW DPI and NSW Rural Fire Services have a number of resources available on fire preparedness. Refer to http://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/plan-and-prepare/farm-fire-safety and https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/climate-and-emergencies/emergency/community/before-an-emergency for further information.