Preparing for the Coming Bushfire Season

Living on the edge of Buninyong on a rural residential property my wife Chrissy and I are so fortunate to be retired, have an abundant produce garden and ample room for our grandchildren and pets to enjoy an outdoor life. Our local environment is rich with wildlife, farm animals, stunning views and fresh air.
When Chrissy and I moved to our home twenty five years ago we had many carefree summer months enjoying the warmth, long days and ease of travel to the Great Ocean Road and Melbourne for relaxation and entertainment. Prior to that our experience of the Ash Wednesday fires when we lived in Melbourne’s sand belt more than ten years earlier had consisted of being inundated by smoke and ashes from the Anglesea and Lorne fires and subsequent horror of the extent of loss of life and property across South East Australia. Now living in Buninyong, we certainly were aware of potential fire risks, however it wasn’t until the Linton and Enfield bushfires in the 1990’s that we gave much consideration to planning for large scale fires in our region.
Fast forward 25 years and Chrissy and I now constantly plan ahead when considering our personal safety, our grandchildren, pets, garden and property.
Since developing our Fire Survival Plan using the resources and template provided by our local CFA five years ago, Chrissy and I have needed to activate the plan on multiple occasions each bushfire season. As we get older and often having grandchildren staying with us, our decisions on whether to stay to defend our home or go are becoming less straight forward as managing children and pets during a fire threat is all consuming leaving little capacity to take other preventative steps.
Travelling away from home on days likely to have high winds and temperatures now requires us to plan how our pets can be managed and we make sure we have personal protective apparel with us in case we encounter wild fires while travelling. Our basic kit bags contain cotton coveralls, goggles, cotton hats, face masks, gloves, socks and sturdy leather boots. We prepare bags with personal items that we would need if our home were to be lost including toiletries, legal documents scanned onto a data stick, phone chargers and changes of underclothes.
You might consider this overkill but last bushfire season, we enacted our Fire Survival Plan to defend our property four times between November and March for fire outbreaks in forests and plantations within four kilometres of our home. Being prepared for the event of fires that are more intense and spread over a longer season requires having personal plans that are communicated with your family and that have been rehearsed so that they can be effectively implemented when under the stress of a real emergency in which smoke, noise and heat can reduce your capacity to focus and make appropriate decisions.

1205 Winter St Scotsburn Fires

 

By now our ritual of preparing for ember attack is well rehearsed. This involves removing all flammable materials away from the house, blocking down pipes and filling spouts and our bath with water, strategically locating mops, filled buckets and knapsack sprayers around the house, moving cars and gas cylinders away from the house, turning off mains gas and connecting a garden hose internally to our laundry taps. We have an escape car ready as needed and we contact family and neighbours about our plans.
We are told the earth’s average temperature has risen around one degree Celsius and the carbon dioxide levels have reached over four hundred parts per million. Our climate will continue to deliver multiple extreme heat days and extreme wind storms most years.
Chrissy and I wish we could have our old climate back, but unfortunately it is widely accepted that even if the whole world stopped adding greenhouse gases to our atmosphere now there is probably going to be a lag period of decades before this might occur. In the meantime it is important for us to adapt to our new climate reality, while we still advocate for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. On the positive side our avocado trees, lemon scented gum trees and buffalo grass which we couldn’t grow in Buninyong 25 years ago are thriving!

Ian Rossiter