650 Homes Lost To Fires In NSW

I just heard that on the radio a little while ago.

I’ve said all this before. Tired of hearing it, my family is. Tired of saying it, I am.

But 650 homes ! Makes me feel I must say it again.

Say what? Say there’s something wrong. Something very wrong. Say we’re not mounting any kind of effective strategy for saving homes in this country, from bushfire.

I’ve got some ideas. They need setting out carefully for maximum impact. They need thinking over to see if they’re sensible. They need fleshing out.. etc…

I don’t think I’m going to do any of that.

Here’s the notes I jotted down since hearing that on the radio:

LEAVING TOO LATE. why? Must Die? Why?

FIRE DANGER ASSESSMENT.

MITIGATION MEASURES.

CONTINGENCY MEASURES WELL BEFORE: Burn off. Bulldoze.

ROOF PROTECTIONS.

SMOKE OR HEAT?

HOW ASSESSABLE ARE THEY?

DANGER RADIUS/TIME?

BIGGEST DANGER TO HOUSE? GUTTERS?

TO PEOPLE? SMOKE? HEAT?

EXIT ROUTE ASSESSMENT?

HOW CLOSE TO A BURNING BUILDING CAN YOU BE? i.e. in the middle of a village amongst burning houses might be quite a safe place.

I can write a few notes about those I guess.

FIRE DANGER ASSESSMENT.

Why don’t we have a national ‘fire danger assessment’ protocol, routine, procedure, call it what you will?

We should all be aware of the fire danger of the building we’re occupying. There’s always a fire danger. Even in the middle of multi story in the city.

In the city the fire danger comes from within the building.

In the bush it comes from the environment.

Hence the danger in the bush should be assessed with respect to the environment.

Lets say we have a building on top of a well tree covered hill. Even amongst the trees on the top of the hill. And with the slopes of the hill stretching quite steeply to the East. And those slopes covered with Eucalypts of a particular variety very prone to burning, manufacturing volatile eucalypt gases and burning fiercely, tending even to crown.

What sort of a fire danger rating would you give it?

And how about a house in a clearing amongst wheat paddocks with flat ground stretching to the horizon, nothing but grass and wheat. What sort of a fire dancer assessment would you give it?

Surely there’d be a vast difference? And surely that difference would be quantifiable? Measurable. According to certain criteria?

Why don’t we have something like that? We have, that I know of, nothing like that. Not a thing. Not even an informal thing. But one day it simply has to start even just because of our dear god: Mammon.

For insurance companies are going to want it. So they will have it.

If we wait for them, though, how many more homes must be lost before it comes?

MITIGATION MEASURES.

Given you’ve got an assessment shouldn’t it come with ‘mitigation measures’ applicable in that place? Something you can do, should do, to mitigate the danger if it comes to the crunch?

I don’t know. It would be different in every place. Perhaps there’s nothing ever could be done but I’d doubt that. How about ‘Your biggest danger is that tree next to the house, if a fire gets into it the house is gone. If it looks like a fire’s coming and can’t be stopped: fell the tree.

Or: bulldoze twenty metres clear into the wind, you’ve got a dozer.

Or: beginning of the season you should back burn fifty metres all around.

Or: you should get rid of all that light shrubbery.

Some appraisal of the situation and some foresight, some planning, for what you might do.

ROOF PROTECTION

I never hear a solitary word about this. Never. I’ve just invented the idea. But don’t we generally believe that our houses burn because of fires starting in the roof? In the gutters I guess, usually?

Then couldn’t some kind of roof protection be devised that would protect the roof and in fact turn the house into a refuge – into a ‘safe house’ rather than a doomed pyre?

SMOKE OR HEAT

This follows on from the above about roof protection. If you’ve got your roof protected and you want to hang around then why not? What’s the problem?

People get told to abandon their homes. They abandon whole villages. I just heard on the radio before writing all this that they’re advising people in some village to abandon it.

Why? What is the problem? They never say. But I guess it can only be either Heat or Smoke. You’re either going to be asphyxiated or burned to death. Is what they’re saying. Why? How did they come to that conclusion?

If this village or this house is an ‘Abandon’ proposition from the very get go at the very idea of a fire coming there then it should be so known, known by everyone, part of the ‘Fire Assessment’.

We should be able to look at a place and make an immediate assessment: I’ll stay in there if a fire comes and do this and that we’ll be okay.

Or perhaps: there’s no hope of saving this place.

I just read a couple of good sites, one by the bushfire people and one by csiro and neither of them suggested that smoke could be so dense as to asphyxiate and therefore smoke predictions could be enough to force abandoning.

And neither of them said that the heat – though it is well stressed – would be enough to burn you to death if you stayed in your house.

So why are we losing 650 homes? Think of the horror of losing your home! Everything goes with it.

EXIT ROUTE ASSESSMENT

I’d expect this to be a formal part of the fire danger assessment of any place and of course it would have to encompass all the possible fire dangers – i.e. a fire from one direction would leave a road clear whereas a fire from the other would cut the road immediately.

But then there’d possibly be an exit downwind. But maybe not… the fire would be chasing you and without a road I suppose you’d be on foot.

Whatever. It should be very clear to you what the situation is.

Here are a couple of links, the ones I just spoke of:

https://ecos.csiro.au/bushfire-in-australia-understanding-hell-on-earth/

https://www.cfs.sa.gov.au/site/prepare_for_a_fire/surviving_a_bushfire.jsp

BOTTOM LINE

Well my bottom line is that I think we are in a parlous state of ignorance.

I think hundreds of people are losing their homes needlessly.

At the same time as I think hundreds of volunteer fire fighting are performing superhuman feats of endurance and bravery and sheer bloody hard work.

I don’t mean to criticise or belittle them one little bit. Let me make that very, very clear.

But I think they’re not being help by our present state of ignorance, non-appraisal, non-awareness, non-understanding.

That’s it.

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