Bushfires constantly create a serious risk to life, the environment and properties located in rural and urban areas. The risk of bushfire increases as the mercury jumps in the warmer months, especially with the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) predicting a hotter than average summer.
November temperatures are likely to be warmer than average for southern Australia, with below-average rainfall across the southeast and parts of the north but above-average rainfall across large parts of the west, according to the BOM. The November to January outlook indicates below-average rainfall is likely across parts of Victoria, NSW and the tropics. Warmer daytime temperatures are likely along much of the coast of southern and eastern Australia, although central parts of the Northern Territory are likely to be cooler. Overnight temperatures are likely to be warmer across most of the country.
The BOM says the current outlook reflects a combination of factors, including a strong El Niño in the Pacific Ocean and very warm Indian Ocean temperatures.
There is very little we can do about our harsh summer climate, however there is plenty we can do to ensure our homes are safe this bushfire season, whether we live on Sydney’s leafy North Shore or near a major National Park.
Julie Humphries, Principal of Raine & Horne Helensburgh, located at the southern end of the Royal National Park, says homeowners should have some plans in place prior to the start of summer, but it’s never too late to protect your property. “If you don’t do anything else, be sure to clean out the gutters and other roof fittings, which collect leaves and other garden flotsam and jetsam. Garden waste is extremely flammable when it dries out and will prove a magnet for flying embers,” said Ms Humphries. “If you have a woodpile left over from winter, be sure to locate it well away from the house, as it’s another great source of fuel for a bushfire.”
Trees with overhanging branches are another potential fire hazard, according to Ms Humphries. “If you can’t chop the trees back yourself, commission a gardener or arborist to prune them back from your house,” she said. “It also pays to keep the lawn trimmed and to take a rake to any piles of leaves lying around. Dead leaves represent a major hazard should a bushfire start up in your neighbourhood.”
Ray Noonan, Principal of Raine & Horne Nelson Bay, where bushfires have been known to cut off residents on the Port Stephens Peninsula in the past, says there are a number of tips that could prove to be very worthwhile in protecting your property from bushfires this summer. “Make sure you have at least one garden hose that reaches the perimeter of your property and make sure all hoses and tap fittings are in good working order. There’s nothing worse than facing up to a bushfire with a faulty hose.”
"While many homeowners are attempting to do the right thing by recycling newspapers and cardboard, these items need to be safely contained as they are highly combustible if a bushfire strikes at your property. Also have a look around your home for any recycling materials, such as flammable liquids or paint close to the house, as these items can also fuel a fire,” said Mr Noonan. “Gas bottles used to fuel barbecues should be kept in a fire safe place, and also be very careful about using a barbecue in blustery bushfire conditions.”
Mr Noonan also suggested for anyone living in close proximity to national parks and bushland to encourage their neighbours to be active about bushfire prevention. “You might take all the best bushfire precautions yourself, but a lax neighbour could unravel all your best laid plans,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to talk to your neighbours about their plans and precautions for bushfire season, as you may find yourselves in the firing line together. Likewise, if there is bushland or national parkland near residential homes, it would be wise to contact your local council to make sure there is a firebreak cleared or maintained to help protect homes in your neighbourhood.”