Final hours before fire arrives
Assess personal safety risks – go out on farm or shelter at your house?
You must decide early, while it is still safe to leave, whether you will stay or go. If you are staying, make decisions about whether you will stay near your house or go out onto the farm to protect infrastructure.
Decide to stay or leave
If you chose to leave but it is too late, shelter in your house; don’t go out onto the farm.
If you stay, is it safe to leave the house and protect infrastructure?
Leaving the house or shelter can be dangerous as there may be nowhere to shelter from fire. Going out onto the farm is a judgement call based on what may affect the intensity of the fire. Assess the risk based on:
- fire danger ratings or warnings and weather
- topography – fire is faster and more intense up a slope
- the presence of bush with lots of fuel – this can lead to an intense fire.
The risks are high if there are strong winds, high temperatures and the fire is burning in forest with potential to burn up slopes. If it is a milder day with gentle winds and cooler temperatures and the fire is burning on flat pasture, the fire may be less dangerous to approach and attempt to control.
Ultimately, your house is one of the safest areas and most valuable items on your farm and should be protected if possible. It is also usually located near important infrastructure (e.g. machinery sheds), meaning you may also be able to protect infrastructure if you are nearby. Therefore, it is usually sensible to be close to your house ready to shelter if the fire is unpredictable or intense. If your house is not threatened, the fire is a distance away and fires are less intense you may be able to get out onto the farm to manage the fire.
Final preparations before the fire arrives
- Put on your personal protective equipment.
- Assemble your farm firefighting team.
- Fill your fire units and run the pump for a few minutes to check it is working well.
- Move valuable equipment to an easily defended spot (e.g. drive a tractor and implements to an open paddock or road near your house).
- Make sure the livestock are in their refuge paddock. If it is too late, do not attempt to move stock. If it is safe to do so, open internal gates or cut fences to allow stock the option to run from fire within the property. Do not open gates or fences onto roads (livestock are a danger to vehicles and may still be caught against fence lines during severe fire).
- Begin checking the priority areas of the farm close to your house for spot fires if safe to do so (but prepare to move quickly back to your house if required).
Calling for help
If you observe a new fire that was not previously known, or your life or property is under threat, call for help. Use 000 on your phone, or if there is no phone reception use Channel 5 or 35 on your UHF CB radio. However, never assume that help will come; always do what you can to protect yourself, even after calling for help.
Ensure your house is ready to shelter in: action checklist
Ensure your house is ready in case you need to shelter. Fire authorities have checklists of what you should do if you are sheltering in your house. These are two good examples:
Some things to do before the fire arrives include:
- Turn off gas bottles inside and outside the house.
- Move flammable items away from the outside of the house (e.g. door mats).
- Block gutters (e.g. with gutter plugs or socks full of sand).
- Wet the side of the house facing the fire and patrol the area for spots before the fire arrives.
- Seal windows, vents and doors, and ensure drafts under doors are prevented with wet towels.
- Fill baths, buckets, bins and sinks with water.
- Remove curtains and move furniture away from windows.
- Have woollen blankets ready to shelter under.
- Drink water to avoid dehydration and wear your protective clothing in case you need to leave the house.
- Protect vulnerable people (elderly, disabled and children).
- If the house becomes smoky, stay low.
- Think about where you would go if your house burned (e.g. open area nearby, dam etc.).
- Bring firefighting gear (pumps, hoses) and generators inside the house so they are available after the fire front passes.
As the fire arrives:
- Move inside if flames are on top of you and the heat is unbearable.
- Actively fight fire in your house; put out spots, including in your roof. Have a ladder ready.
- Shelter in a room away from the fire that has two exits you are able to get out of (e.g. one could be a low window).
After the fire:
- Check the house for fires, including in the roof cavity and under the house.
- Patrol for several hours as embers can continue to start fires for hours after a fire.
Fighting the fire
Firefighting is a complex subject and cannot be adequately taught in this module.
We recommend you join a local volunteer fire brigade to gain firefighting skills.