Published : 25 May 2016
Bushfire season may have come and gone for most States, but that doesn't mean we should become complacent. Fire is a very real risk at any time of year, and has many causes. And while specific advice is given during bushfire season, here are some additional tips to help you stay safe.
Bushfire season in Australia is generally regarded as being during summer and autumn but, in the north, it is during the dry season, which is winter. There are several steps you can take to reduce the risk to your home, such as keeping the area around your property well maintained, removing dead wood and leaves, trimming hedges and trees, mowing the grass and cleaning gutters.
Ensure appliances are well maintained
It's also recommended that you store all flammable material, such as paper, paint, fuel and other chemicals, away from the house, and mark all water sources in case emergency services need them.
However, we really should be ensuring that our properties are safe from fire at all times of year. First and foremost, that means ensuring that electrical and gas appliances are well maintained and regular checked, and that care is taken when using open fireplaces and wood burners.
Never let children play with matches and lighters, and ensure they are supervised when using any cooking or heating appliances.
But what of the house itself - can anything be done there? Certainly it can, and every day new products and materials are coming onto the market to help us build safer homes. Indeed, in some parts of Australia, fire-proof building design is required by law.
Strict building controls
The main components to consider in a fire-proof home design are the construction materials. Let's take Victoria as an example. Due to the strict building standards in bushfire prone areas, only fire-proof materials can be used on external walls and roofs, including bricks, stone, fibre cement, steel and other non-flammable materials.
External fireproof shutters are required by law in some areas, and these can be made of steel, bronze or aluminium.
One of the major causes of home fires are the dry leaves and other debris that collect in gutters, so roof design is another key area for fire safety. Simple is best here, with as few areas as possible for leaves to collect. It's also important to make the roof accessible, and safe to walk on, so that gutters can be regularly cleaned.
When it comes to the actual build of the house, brick homes are a good choice. However, we then tend to add decks, which are generally made of wood! But there is a solution. These days there are some excellent fire-retardant paints on the market, specially formulated for our decks, pergolas and other timber structures.
Alternatively, it's worth investigating some of the newer decking materials, such as fire-retardant composite wood and PVC.
Fire-proof technology is also available for the products and furnishings we use inside our homes. For example, it is now possible to install fire-retardant carpet and rugs. So always ask for expert advice when fitting out your new property.
And be sure to add the obvious fire safety features, too, such as smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, and regularly check they are in good order and working.