Preparation for fire
Firefighting equipment and safety gear
It is often safest to leave your farm when a fire is approaching. However, if you are trained and prepared appropriately you may choose to stay. If you plan to stay on-farm during a fire, having the right equipment may enable you to put out fires around your infrastructure and protect livestock. Appropriate equipment will also be required for you to conduct controlled burns to manage vegetation during the year. Useful equipment includes:
- personal protective equipment
- firefighting unit/s
- UHF CB two-way radios
- electric generator and fuel
- machinery to install a firebreak.
Personal protective equipment
- heat-resistant goggles
- cotton or wollen clothing
- leather boots (preferably with melt-resistant soles)
- broadbrimmed hat
- leather gloves.
Specifically designed firefighting clothing that meets Australian standards (e.g. AS/NZ 4824: 2021) is available from a variety of sources. These specialised clothes are ideal as they are designed to keep the wearer protected yet cool. They can be purchased without logos or insignia by private individuals.
Firefighting unit (fire pump, tank and hoses)
Farms with more than one firefighting unit and staff to use them had 10 times less risk of having burnt livestock in the Black Summer bushfires. Firefighting units can be purchased as a complete unit or developed on the farm from components already present (e.g. a spray tank and a firefighting pump). They can be slip-on units for a ute or truck or can be prepared as a trailer. Service firefighting units annually before fire season.
Do not rely only on a tractor spray rig. While it may be of some use, the limited pressure and water flow of a spray rig means it is no substitute for a proper firefighting unit with sufficient pressure and flow to extinguish fire.
UHF CB two-way radios
Handheld units to assist on-farm communication are useful, especially given the difficulty of using a mobile phone with leather gloves and the likelihood of telephone network outages occurring during a bushfire. One of the most common changes planned by farms affected by fire in the Black Summer season was to have two-way radios available on-farm.
The UHF radio frequency you use matters. Check rules at the Australian Communications and Media Authority for requirements.
On-farm, communicate on a general use channel that does not appear to be active locally. To communicate with your local fire brigade, they can advise which channel to use. If firefighters arrive on your farm and you do not know which channel to use to communicate with them, use Channel 11 to initiate contact and take advice on which channel to use.
The channels in the image on the right are available. Channels outside 1–80 require a commercial license.
Other equipment that can be very useful when preparing for fire includes:
- rakes/McLeod tools
- woollen blankets for sheltering from radiant heat
- ladder for accessing roof space or clearing gutters
- gutter plugs
- spare connections, O rings and consumables for the firefighting
Equipment to install a fire break
Access to equipment such as a tractor with a 3-in-1 bucket, plough, bulldozer or grader will help you to quickly prepare a firebreak around your assets.
Note that many fire-related expenses are tax deductible – see the Australian Tax Office website for further information.
Firefighting training and experience
Having firefighting skills during a fire is invaluable. These skills will help you remain calm, know what to do and be aware of what is dangerous or relatively safe. It is therefore essential that you have some firefighting skills if you are going to stay on your farm during a bushfire.
A fire service truck may not be available during a widespread fire, as seen during the Black Summer bushfires. If you have never experienced a fire, skills can be gained by participating in pile burning or controlled burning on your farm, or by volunteering with the local bushfire fighting brigade.
These brigades provide training, equipment and experience and the opportunity to help others. Volunteering is a serious and long- term commitment but also an opportunity to gain valuable skills that you can use on your own property and those of your neighbours, friends and family.