Controlling Fires on Your Property

Bushfire is an inevitable part of life on a rural property. The key to living in a fire-prone environment is preparedness and there are a number of things you can do to minimise the threat of bushfire.

Firebreaks are essential in controlling the spread of bushfire and you should create and maintain fire breaks at least three metres wide around the perimetres of your property, or at least in strategic locations near bushland or heavily-treed areas.

Firebreaks not only stop low intensity fires from spreading, but they also provide access for fighting fires and for backburning. Where possible, take advantage of existing fire breaks such as roads, tracks, railway lines, creeks, dams and rivers.

Methods of creating firebreaks include:

  • Heavily grazing livestock during spring (can also be used to create safe areas for livestock).
  • Slashing or mowing (can be maintained by grazing).
  • Cultivation such as ploughing or harrowing (requires regular maintenance)
  • Burning off (must be done with extreme caution).
  • Spraying herbicides (useful in hard to access areas).

On the home front, you should create low-fuel areas for at least 20 metres around your house, outbuildings and hay stacks. Vegetable gardens and lawns make excellent fire breaks.

Surrounding grass should be regularly slashed and flammable materials and potential fuel sources removed or stored safely.

Gutters should be cleaned frequently, overhanging branches removed and leaves raked to provide as little fuel as possible in the path of a fire.

Hay stacks are a potential fire hazard on rural properties. If hay is damp or not cured properly when baled, it can generate enough heat to self-combust.

You should monitor hay stack temperature regularly and if it is hot inside, pull the bale apart as soon as possible. Never park expensive machinery in hay sheds for this very reason.

Farm machinery is also a fire risk. Harvesting equipment can start fires due to hot machinery coming into contact with crops and stubble. Slasher blades striking rocks create sparks, as do machinery and vehicles without effective spark arresters fitted to their exhaust systems.

Ways to prevent machinery fires include:

  • Tractors, augers, headers and chaser bins should be routinely cleaned and maintained.
  • All farm machinery should be regularly serviced to prevent overheating, particularly exhaust systems, brakes and bearings.
  • Extreme care should be taken when using angle grinders, cutters or welders.
  • Using machinery during unfavoutable weather conditions should be avoided (i.e. high winds or extreme temperatures).

Loss of livestock can be prevented by having a low-fuel area to which animals can be relocated in the event of a fire. This could be a fallow paddock, irrigated pasture, or raceway. As long as there is room to roam and sufficient water and shade, they will have a good chance of survival.

Should you be threatened by a fire, you need to be ready, with suitable firefighting equipment close at hand. It should be run regularly and well maintained, particularly pumps. Australia has fire fighting equipment suppliers and service agents in every state and territory.

Firefighting equipment includes:

  • Suitable clothing (i.e. non-flammable long-sleeved shirt, long trousers, boots, hat and gloves).
  • Knapsack sprayer – a backpack-mounted polythene tank with brass fittings, which uses a high-pressure underarm pump to spray water from a spray-jet nozzle.
  • Firefighting pump(not dependent on electricity) that attaches to your water tanks or can draw from a dam or swimming pool using a suction hose.

Fire is something you live with in a rural environment, but it can be managed and controlled like any other natural occurrence providing it is carefully planned for and adequate measures are put in place.

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