Why there's an increased risk
The recent rains have caused a significant increase in vegetation growth and as this dries out or cures, there is an increased risk of grass fires.
Grass fires can be especially dangerous because they can start easily and spread quickly, destroying homes, properties, lives and livelihoods.
Reducing your risk
Landholders can help reduce the risk of grass fires by taking steps to prevent fires from starting.
It is important to check and maintain equipment such as tractors, slashers, motorcycles, and harvesters. Landholders should ensure that machinery is free from fault and where necessary, fit an approved spark arrestor.
The NSW Rural Fire Service is encouraging landholders to look at ways of reducing their risk. Firebreaks can help slow the spread of fire, protecting valuable assets like crops, buildings and machinery. Firebreaks can offer added protection by reducing the risk of a fire entering or leaving your property. Firebreaks can be cut, mowed, sprayed or ploughed around buildings like homes or sheds, along fence lines and near other valuable assets like storage facilities.
Even if you don't live on the land, you can still be affected by grass fires, especially when travelling. Motorists should avoid driving through or stopping in long grass. The heat from a car's exhaust can be enough to start a fire.
While the NSW Rural Fire Service encourages landholders to carry out hazard reduction activities, these need to be done under the right conditions. The weather should be monitored and if landholders are undertaking activities such as grinding, slashing or welding, those works should be minimised during periods of increased fire danger and check if there are restrictions in place. A fire should never be left unattended and it is important to always make sure that adequate fire fighting equipment is available and on hand.
PREPARE. Prepare your family, protect your life
Download a Bush Fire Survival Plan from www.rfs.nsw.gov.au and complete it with your family. Everyone's Survival Plan will be different and it can help you make important decisions well before there is a fire.
Bush and grass fires are a natural part of the Australian environment and occur regularly, but many people fail to prepare for them. When threatened by bush or grass fires, people will often leave it too late to make critical decisions and often have few safe options left.
During a bush or grass fire, firefighters will be working to stop the fire, but the size, speed and intensity of a fire could mean that a fire truck may not be available to defend your home. It is your responsibility to reduce the risk to your family and your home and take actions to survive a bush or grass fire.
Preparation is not just about cleaning up around the house and having a plan. It is also about making sure you consider your physical, mental and emotional preparedness.
A bush or grass fire can be a terrifying situation. Strong gusty winds, intense heat and flames will make you tired quickly. Thick, heavy smoke will sting your eyes and choke your lungs. It will be difficult to see and breathe. The roaring sound of the fire approaching will deafen you. Embers will rain down, causing spot fires all around you. Power and water may be cut off. You may be isolated. It will be dark, noisy and extremely physically and mentally demanding. If you have any doubts about your ability to cope, you should plan to Leave Early. A well prepared home is more likely to survive a bush fire even if you leave early.
ACT. Know the Fire Danger Rating in your area
You can find the daily Fire Danger Ratings on the RFS website at www.rfs.nsw.gov.au, by calling 1800 679 737 (1800 NSW RFS), in your local media or by looking for the roadside signs.
Fire Danger Ratings give you an indication of the consequences of a fire, if a fire was to start. The rating is based on predicted conditions such as the temperature, humidity, wind and dryness of the landscape. It tells you how a bush fire may act, what impacts there might be on the community if a bush fire were to start and when to implement your Bush Fire Survival Plan.
In an area where a bush or grass fire can start, leaving early on Catastrophic fire danger days is your only safe option.
On days of increased fire danger, pay extra attention to the fire risk in your area. If a fire does start:
- Contain pets so they can be easily found.
- Move stock to fully grazed areas.
- Check water pumps and generators to make sure they are working.
- Review your Bush Fire Survival Plan with your family and have your Emergency Survival Kit and protective clothing ready.
- Listen to the media for updates and information.
- Talk to your neighbours, family and friends.
- Make sure your whole family knows what your trigger is and be ready to put your Bush Fire Survival Plan into action.
SURVIVE. Know what you will do to survive.
If there is a fire, put your Bush Fire Survival Plan into action. Hesitating or adopting a wait and see approach could have deadly consequences for you and your family.
Before you decide to stay and defend you should ask yourself 'Am I prepared and am I capable?' If no, then you should leave early.
It's important that you stay up to date on the fire situation. Listen to local radio and if possible, check the RFS website for fire updates.
For more information visit www.rfs.nsw.gov.au or call 1800 NSW RFS.