This year’s bushfire season has the potential to be especially dangerous according to a UNSW fire expert, who is urging people to get prepared and mitigate the risks.
Professor Guan Yeoh, director of the ARC Training Centre in Fire Retardant Materials and Safety Technologies, says recent weather patterns have created conditions that increase the chance of major bushfires.
Those include three years of increased rain which have promoted rapid vegetation growth, followed by a more recent very dry winter creating a tinderbox scenario. That means any incident of lightning, which is the cause of around 50 per cent of bushfires in Australia, could easily spark rapidly spreading fires over wide areas.
In addition, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has recently forecast that the southern hemisphere is entering into an El Niño climate cycle and has warned of a “surge in global temperatures”.
“In the last few years, we have had a lot of rain and floods and because of that there has been a lot of growth of grass, trees and bushland,” says Prof. Yeoh, from UNSW’s School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering.
“I was recently in the Blue Mountains just outside Sydney and I could see that everything was totally green and flourishing.
“This winter has been very dry and now we must be ready for a scenario where we will have high summer temperatures, the same as they are currently experiencing in the northern hemisphere.
“Given all that I think it is important for people to be really prepared for bushfire season and think about what might be coming.”
Prof. Yeoh says people can help protect themselves and their property from the dangers of bushfires with a few simple tasks and is encouraging them to be done as soon as possible.
“Prevention is always the best thing if possible, so I think everyone should get prepared now. If you leave it too late, you tend to forget or you run out of time,” he says.
“I think if you can prepare yourself now then you’ll be ready for when bushfire season starts, which may be as early as September this year given the conditions.”
Here are Prof. Yeoh’s five tips for getting ready for bushfire season:
1. Clean out gutters
Throughout the year leaves and other vegetation can easily accumulate in gutters around your house.
This is all fuel for a potential fire and can easily be sparked by extremely hot embers that often carry many kilometres on the wind from the main location of a raging bushfire.
Cleaning gutters is one of the main ways to ensure that your house does not catch fire in a bushfire situation.
2. Get your water tank ready
After clearing the gutters, it would be a good idea to hose them with water, which reduces the chances of hot embers sparking a fire.
This should also prompt you to ensure you have a reliable supply of water should it be needed to dampen down approaching flames.
It is also important to have sturdy hoses easily available which can reach all around your property for the same reason.
3. Clear bushland around your home
As much as possible, try to create a ‘buffer zone’ between local bushland and your property.
This means trimming overhanging trees and shrubs, mowing long grass and removing the cuttings.
It’s also important to remove any flammable materials around your house such as outdoor furniture, paint cans, and even door mats.
4. Be evacuation-ready
Make sure you and your family have a clear and concise plan to evacuate if conditions become too dangerous.
Think carefully about when you would decide to escape, which route you would take and what the back-up option would be should a bushfire block your way.
Prepare fully by keeping up to date with local bushfire information via TV, radio, websites, social media, and special apps such as ‘Fires Near Me’.
5. Fireproof your property
If you have the time, fire retardant paints are available which could prevent your house from being badly damaged or even destroyed in a bushfire.
Prof. Yeoh and his team at UNSW have helped develop a fire-coat paint – the first to meet the Bushfire Attack Level 40 standard indicating a high bushfire risk – which will shortly be on sale in Bunnings.
Such paint could help protect you and your family in the house if evacuation from a bushfire proved impossible.
To speak further with fire safety expert Professor Guan Yeoh, please contact:
Neil Martin, News & Content Coordinator, UNSW
A UNSW Sydney fire expert has warned bushfires could be fierce and widespread this summer and is encouraging people to be fully prepared as soon as possible.
Neil Martin, News & Content Coordinator, UNSW