Bushfires

Victoria has mapped bushfire prone areas.  There are many precautions you can take to help protect your home and maximise your safety.

If you are planning to build or renovate key steps include:

  • ensuring an appropriate building site location
  • using suitable building materials
  • ensuring proximity to independent water resources
  • managing the vegetation surrounding the building and clearing debris close to the building.

It is also important to ensure your property is accessible for emergency vehicles and has a water supply for firefighting.

The Victorian Building Authority recommends the following to help reduce the risk of damage to homes in the event of a bushfire:

  • Use building materials appropriate for the conditions and your Bushfire Attack Level (BAL)
  • Remove any overhanding tree branches, take out shrubs over one metre high next to or below windows, keep grass short and clean up other debris near your building site or home that could easily catch fire to help provide some defendable space
  • Follow the step-by-step guide to protecting your home from fire by downloading the Country
    Fire Authority (CFA) Fire Ready Kit from www.cfa.vic.gov.au  or phoning the VicEmergency Hotline on 1800 226 226 for a copy.
  • Ensure you have a Bushfire Survival Plan in place and practise it regularly.
  • Get involved in community meetings about fire preparedness in the neighbourhood. Go to the CFA website for meeting details. 
  • If you have a full rainwater tank near your home, ensure it is accessible.

Bushfire Attack Level (BAL)

The aim of the residential building standard for bushfire protection is to improve the ability of a building to withstand a bushfire attack. This will provide greater protection for the occupants who may be sheltering inside while the fire front passes. A great deal of scientific modelling has gone into the standard. The following chart outlines how the baseline data, which is defined as a Bushfire Attack Level (BAL), determines the type of construction required.

The BAL takes into consideration a number of factors including the Fire Danger Index, the slope of the land, types of surrounding vegetation and its proximity to any building.

Bushfire Prone Area Maps

Victoria has now developed on-line Bushfire Prone Area (BPA) maps. The bushfire prone areas have been determined using the most recent available scientific information and data.

The maps can be viewed at www.land.vic.gov.au

If your proposed residential building is within a BPA then a BAL assessment is required. If that BAL is determined as low, the construction requirements must still meet a minimum of BAL 12.5 as detailed in AS 3959 – 2009.

Ember attack and the temperature (radiant heat) of a bushfire not only threaten buildings and properties but are often unstoppable.

Bushfires burn at very high temperatures and the February 2009 fires has meant a revisit of the baseline data around radiant heat levels.

It is important to be aware that loss of property due to bushfire is sometimes unpreventable.

Bushfire health hazards

Houses, sheds and other buildings or structures burnt in a bushfire can leave potential health hazards including:

  • fallen objects
  • sharp objects
  • smouldering coals
  • damaged electrical wires
  • leaking gas
  • weakened walls.

Hazardous materials that may be present after the fire include:

  • asbestos
  • ashes medicines
  • garden or farm chemicals
  • other general chemicals (for example, cleaning products)
  • metal and other residues from burnt household appliances
  • dust.

Further information on protecting yourself when returning to a bushfire-affected property is available on the Department of Health website.