A guide for an Effective Bushfire Protection Plan in Blue Mountains
Uncover strategic measures, community involvement, and innovation, all aimed at preserving our natural wonder
In this article, we explore the development of an effective bushfire protection plan for the Blue Mountains. We want to delve into the strategies, partnerships, and innovations that make up a great bushfire protection plan in Blue Mountains. We navigate through the layers of this essential strategy, peeling back onions to reveal a community’s commitment to protecting its treasured home amidst the challenges of an ever-changing world
A double-edged landscape - eucalyptus and dry climate
The Blue Mountains region, a true testament to nature’s artistry, showcases a captivating blend of geological marvels and ecological diversity. Its towering cliffs, sculpted by millions of years of weathering, command awe and admiration. Over 99 species of eucalypt trees have evolved here over millions of years, making it the most diverse eucalypt forest in the world. Eucalyptus forests dominate the landscape here, contributing their distinct fragrance and vibrant greens. Villages dotted with guesthouses, galleries, and gardens interlace with the natural wonders, forming a unique tapestry that draws in visitors from around the country.
Beneath the surface beauty, however, lies a formidable challenge: the region’s inherent susceptibility to bushfires. While emblematic of the Australian landscape, Eucalyptus trees possess leaves rich in volatile oils, making them highly flammable. Paired with the area’s prevailing dry summers, characterised by scorching temperatures and limited rainfall, the landscape becomes a veritable tinderbox, ripe for the ignition of bushfires. This volatile synergy between eucalyptus and climate presents a constant reminder of the need for proactive fire defence.
The Blue Mountains is also home to a resilient community that thrives amidst this challenging backdrop. An estimated resident population of 77,905 and 34,093 residential dwellings underscores the unique blend of rural tranquillity and vibrant habitation. As people grow, so does the urgency to ensure their safety and well-being. With the upcoming scorching summer of 2023 looming, the need for a robust bushfire protection plan becomes essential for nature’s wonders and the lives it embraces.
Strategies for Fire Defence
Firebreaks and Fuel Load
Firebreaks, which are cleared areas without vegetation, are a crucial component of the plan to protect against bushfires. They serve as strategic lines of defence against the relentless march of bushfires. The creation and diligent maintenance of firebreaks are vital in reducing fuel load accumulation, which are the combustible materials that feed the flames. As an essential part of the Blue Mountains bushfire protection, firebreaks are not just gaps in the wilderness but the frontlines in the battle against nature’s fiery fury.
Hazard reduction burning, also known as controlled or prescribed burning, is a fire ignited and controlled to burn a predetermined area under specific fuel and weather conditions to attain planned fuel management outcomes. This is done in strategic areas of a park to reduce fire-prone fuel hazards, which can moderate fire behaviour and aid fire suppression efforts in the right weather conditions. However, when fire weather is severe, extreme or catastrophic, areas treated by hazard reduction burns may have limited influence on fire behaviour mainly driven by the weather.
The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service conducted a hazard reduction burn in Blue Mountains National Park in 2023. In addition to prescribed burning, the NPWS hazard reduction program includes mechanical works such as slashing and mowing. The community is kept updated through our Alerts page.
Ember Attack Mitigation
An ember attack is when, during a bushfire, embers (also known as firebrands) such as burning twigs, bark fragments, moss or leaves become temporarily airborne and are carried by winds in a cluster.
Large clusters of embers can be blown away, and when they land, they have the potential to ignite spot fires, initiate new bushfires, or ignite flammable materials on homes. Eucalyptus bark is generally considered the most dangerous source in Australia.
Ember attacks are the most common trigger for house fires during bushfires. It’s important to remain vigilant against ember attacks, even if you don’t live in close proximity to a bushfire.
Embers can be carried as far as 10 km downwind of the firefront, making houses streets away from the bushfire susceptible to this danger.
Fire-resistant Building Materials
In the face of danger, structures fortified with fire-resistant building materials become islands of resilience. These materials can transform structures into fortresses against the ravages of fire. From fire-resistant siding to non-combustible roofing, every layer of protection adds to the overall defence. A well-prepared home can be easier for you or firefighters to defend and less likely to put your neighbours’ homes at risk.
If you live in a bushfire-prone area, knowing how to prepare for a bushfire from the moment you begin building is key to staying safe. Ensure your builder has access to the Australian Bushfire Standard and consults it at the start of the process. It details all the safety requirements that must be followed when building in a bushfire-prone area.
Here are some basic maintenance tips to prepare your property –
- Clean your gutters of leaves and twigs
- Install metal gutter guards
- Repair damaged or missing tiles on the roof
- Install fine metal mesh screens on windows and doors
- Fit seals around doors and windows to eliminate gaps.
- Enclose the areas under the house
- Repair or cover gaps in external walls
- Attach a fire sprinkler system to gutters. Ironclad is an official Fire Halo™ distribution partner. Contact us for more.
- Keep lawns short and gardens well-maintained
- Cut back trees and shrubs overhanging buildings
- Clean up fallen leaves, twigs, and debris around the property
- Have hoses long enough to reach around your house
- If you have a pool, tank, or dam, put a Static Water Supply (SWS) sign on your property entrance so firefighters know where they can get water
- Check and maintain adequate levels of home and contents insurance and ensure it is up to date.
Forging a Protective Perimeter
In the unforgiving theatre of bushfires, defensible space emerges as a critical strategy. Creating a buffer zone around structures and removing vegetation allows firefighters to combat flames safely. This calculated zone of defence serves as a guardian for homes, ensuring that the tendrils of fire are held at bay, allowing precious time for response efforts. With an understanding of the vital role defensible space plays in fire defence, the plan stands as a testament to the foresight and determination of a community determined to protect its haven amidst the flames.
Community Involvement and Awareness
The heart of an effective bushfire plan lies in the active participation of residents. Engaging the community in the protection plan fosters a sense of shared responsibility and empowers individuals to play a pivotal role in safeguarding their homes and neighbourhoods. This united front enhances the plan’s efficacy and strengthens the bond among community members, creating a resilient network poised to face fire threats with determination.
In the pursuit of a fire-resilient community, knowledge is an indispensable ally. Public awareness campaigns are beacons of information, casting light on fire safety principles, emergency protocols, and the critical importance of preparedness. These campaigns empower residents with the insights needed to navigate fire emergencies through workshops, pamphlets, online resources, and interactive sessions.
By cultivating a culture of awareness, these efforts sow the seeds of vigilance, ensuring that each community member becomes a sentinel in the shared mission of fire protection.
Technological advancements for protecting homes from bushfires encompass a range of innovations designed to enhance safety and preparedness. Some of these advancements include.
- Fire Halo ™. The Fire Halo ™ is an innovative technology designed to provide advanced protection against the threat of bushfires. This system creates a fire-resistant perimeter around homes and structures, forming a shield or “halo” that helps prevent the spread of flames and embers.
- Fire-resistant Building Materials. Innovative materials like fire-resistant roofing, siding, and windows can reduce a home’s vulnerability to ember attacks and direct flames.
- Smart Fire Alarms and Sensors. Advanced fire detection systems equipped with sensors can identify the early signs of a fire, triggering alerts to homeowners and emergency services.
- Ember-blocking Ventilation. Specialised vents and screens prevent embers from entering the home through openings, minimising the risk of interior ignition.
- Remote Fire Monitoring. Technology-enabled cameras and sensors provide real-time monitoring of fire activity around the property, allowing homeowners to make informed decisions.
- Sprinkler Systems. Automated sprinkler systems can activate to wet the home’s exterior, creating a moisture barrier that shields against ember attacks.
- Fire-resistant Landscaping. Utilising fire-resistant plants and arranging vegetation strategically can create defensible spaces that mitigate fire risk.
- Heat-reflective Exterior Coatings. Coatings that reflect heat away from the home’s surface can reduce the likelihood of ignition from radiant heat.
- Home Fireproofing Gels. Fire-resistant gels can be applied to the home’s exterior to create a protective barrier against flames and embers.
- Mobile Apps for Alerts. Smartphone apps can provide real-time updates on fire conditions, evacuation routes, and emergency alerts.
- Satellite Communication. Satellite phones and communication devices ensure connectivity during emergencies when regular networks may be disrupted.
- Fire-resistant Window Shutters. Specialised shutters can shield windows from radiant heat and embers, reducing the risk of interior ignition.
- Heat-resistant Glass. Heat-resistant glass can prevent windows from shattering due to high temperatures, helping to maintain the home’s integrity.
- Fire-resistant Insulation. Insulation materials designed to resist flames and heat can enhance the home’s overall fire resistance.
- Emergency Power Generators. Backup power sources ensure essential systems, like fire alarms and communication devices, continue to function during power outages.
- Advanced Weather Prediction Tools. Access to real-time weather data and predictive modelling helps homeowners anticipate fire risks and plan accordingly.
These technological advancements combine with traditional fire safety practices to form a comprehensive strategy for protecting homes from the devastating impact of bushfires.
As the seasons change and the embers of the next challenge ignite, let us carry forward the lessons learned, the bonds forged, and the commitment to a fire-resilient Blue Mountains. With every act of preparedness, every spark of awareness, and every hand extended in cooperation, we ensure that the blueprint we’ve explored is not just ink on paper but a living legacy that ensures the flame of protection never falters.
Ironclad Blue Mountains has partnered with Fire Halo Building Protection Pty Ltd and holds exclusive rights in the Blue Mountains area to offer and install the innovative Fire Halo system.