Question Fire prevention

Discussion in 'Other' started by Mataeka, Sep 8, 2019.

  1. Mataeka

    Mataeka Well-Known Member Premium Member GOLD

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    With the current dry season I'm curious what your bush fire prevention methods are?

    Our forever home is 11 acres of some quite steep hillside so for us we need to get really serious about Bushfire prevention/mitigation.

    I read a great article recently (will find the link later if anyone wants it) which spoke of using some succulent plants such as aloe arborens as a fire retardant plant as 5 mins of direct flame still won't set the plant alight due to its high water content which remains even during dry conditions. I'm also planning on building swales all the way down the slope to slow water flow and help more absorb deeper into the ground rather than flow off. I also intend on having our food Forest below our house (previous owners already began establishing fruiting plants in that area) as to my understanding that should trap a nice amount of moisture helping prevent the spread of fire, particularly if we set it up with a sprinkler during a fire event.

    I also intend on convincing my hubs to build an underground fire shelter (or possibly repurpose our cement water tank into a dual purpose fire shelter/root cellar. But that means reducing other plans he currently has in mind because his idea of what makes a safe fire shelter and my idea are vastly different ...

    Would love to hear what your fire plans involve so I can absorb factors that may assist us
     
  2. Berkeloid

    Berkeloid Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I'm also interested in this as I am working towards making the move out of the city and would hate to have to worry about fires coming through.

    Only thing I can say is that while the succulents might help act as a fire break, one of the big problems I have heard of with controlling the spread of fire is that of embers blowing all over the place in a large bushfire. They can blow right across any fire break and set fire to something flammable many hundreds of metres away. This means that although fire breaks are a good idea, they are no guarantee that a fire will stop right there. You still have to figure out how to cope with small bits of red hot charcoal dropping all over the place. This is one thing I have yet to work out how to deal with so I'd also be interested in whether anyone else has good ideas for this.
     
  3. Mataeka

    Mataeka Well-Known Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Ah, I neglected to mention roof mounted sprinklers and crimsafe security doors (fine enough wire to prevent embers entering into the house.

    Talking with my dad he also mentioned (but I've not yet looked it up) some kind of plug you can put into your gutters toblock them and then fill them up with water. I figure that would have the added benefit of stopping ash etc from entering into your tank system plus the overflow help keep the rest of the property wet too.

    Of course limiting the amount of flammable debris is #1. Fire needs fuel foremost. Removing dry fallen leaves, keeping vegetation reasonably under control can go a long way to preventing a fire getting too wild.
     
  4. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Well I'm in major fire protection mode as we speak!
    Because the local bush fire brigade can't be relied on to turn up and in anycase they don't save fences or rural infrastructure, it is up to me to protect my own property.

    I have a fire fighter kit on the back of my landcruiser trayback ute.
    I'll take a photo and add to this post tomorrow.
    I have tracks around the property and a dam to pump from to fill the IBC 1000lt tank on the landcruiser.
    If a fire comes through, I will move the horses to the furtherest paddock on the other side of the ridge that runs north-south through my property.
    That way I can open gates to all other paddocks and drive straight to the dam without stopping all the time.
    Then if the fire changes I can shift the horses to a burnt out paddock and go into the one they've been in and leave that gate open.
    Then if things get really bad I have canvas rugs for each horse with their name and my phone number painted inside each rug.
    But letting them loose on the highway would be a last resort. I can put them in the property across my street where there is enough room to gallop past fire burning in grazed grass.
    My place is mostly regenerated bush whereas the neighbouring property is still cleared cow paddock.
    If a fire gets really bad and I have to just save myself, I can park next to the house and put the firehose nozzle on jet spray and aim it over the roof so me, the car and the house will be rained on until the 1000lt is used up.
    Hopefully by then the front will be past and I will refill and go into mop-up phase putting out fires in fence posts, sheds etc.
    My neighbours don't like my property because I've let the bush regenerate and I've let the grassed parts of each paddock grow tall for the horses!
    So I'll be just using my fire fighter on my property!

    Now Mataeka, regarding your steep block.
    The slope causes wind ( and hence fire) to get sucked up it very quickly.
    If the steep slope faces the bush where fire is most likely to come from, then you should not plant it too thickly or the trees will provide a base for the fire to keep burning below the house after the front has passed over.
    Yes blowing embers are a real hazzard and often get caught in guttering, under eaves and soffits, and blow in under the upper floors of verandahs.

    A big fire doesn't require any fuel at ground level because it runs through the tree tops. In Australia our trees are often eucalypts which begin to gass off as they heat up thus fuelling the fire at roof height.
    Succulent type plants are only beneficial against very cool slow creeping forest fires.
    The fires we get in our semi-rural and outer urban areas are generally fast hot fires using garden plantings and local bush for fuel.
    So ornamental and native trees, shrubs and well mulched gardens are the worst offenders, providing the best fuel to heat the fire.
    Garden mulch is a really bad thing to have for a fire. It provides small fuel that keeps burning for ages thereby keeping the heat in an area.
    Even a well kept lawn will burn fiercely if the fire is hot enough at ground level.
    Unfortunately our beautiful permaculture gardens are at significant risk in fire season because they provide the exact material a fire needs to burn at ground level.
    Sad but true!
    When the bush fire brigade chief came to my place to do the assessment he just shook his head and told me they wouldn't be wasting their time here because I had too much fuel growing close around the house and buildings, and my paddocks "were a mess"!

    Its the price we pay for alternative or more natural gardening methods and bush regen.
    It burns!

    For you to protect your property best, you shouldn't have any gardens or trees within 60m of the house, just lawn. For many properties that means the whole block would be bare and no-one likes that. So we do a deal with the devil and plant a garden.
    During the big fires in Victoria several years ago where the whole towns burned, one rural family used a concrete tank as a fire shelter and survived although he told media later that they almost ran out of oxygen in there as the fire front sucked it all out as it went over.
    Another family didn't survive their concrete tank shelter for the same reason.
    So if you decide to go down that road you'll have to factor in a complementary source of breathing air for around an hour at least. Sometimes its still too hot to go outside just an hour after the fire front has passed, particularly if your house burned down, so you have to stay in the shelter for several hours or overnight. You can't open a door or window because the inside will quickly fill with smoke.
    So you also need some cool water, food, toilet, bedding, clean heat resistant clothes and boots to change into once inside because the clothes you are wearing when you enter the shelter will pollute the air inside even if only with the smell which can be overwhelming itself. Then you need strong plastic bags to put the dirty clothing into. You need to brush your hair and wash your exposed skin or it will become itchy and scaley very quickly.
    If you've never been in a bushfire, you have no idea the rankness of the burnt smell that permeates your hair, clothes and body if you've been helping to fight the fire or simply protect your own property.

    Ember showers can be eased using a sprinkler setup on the roof. There are some good designs available on youtube made with all brass fittings but the water needs to be stored in a minimum size of 25000lt concrete or galvanized tank and pumped with a diesel pump. You can't rely on the power these days because authorities turn it off to prevent downed live wires arcing out and starting new fires.
    The pump should run on diesel because petrol cans explode when the fire gets close as do the fuel tanks on the pumps.
    So your sprinkler system will cost a lot of money and still may not save your property if you've planted a garden, have nearby bush, tall trees or two or more storys to your home where embers can loft around and under the floor structures driven in by strong wind.
    Fly screens must be metal mesh such as the crim mesh type. All exterior fittings must be brass or stainless steel, no plastic or wooden anything, not even the window trims, outdoor furniture, garden hoses, etc!
    Ok enough for tonight! I'll add a photo tomorrow.
     
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  5. Mataeka

    Mataeka Well-Known Member Premium Member GOLD

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    That is awesome info ClissAT thank you so much. From memory you are in a similar part of the woods to us (we are in the Mary Valley) so I understand just how dry it is around you. The link I've mentioned (https://reforestation.me/fire-no-fines-concrete/) does indeed mention having oxygen in the fire shelter so that's awesome to know. Our intention is to turn out concrete water tank into a root cellar in the long term so food would be doable, and it wouldn't be impossible to have a shelf set aside for water, clothes, and oxygen. Ideally we'd have enough to cover the 4 of us, but if we have any warning I would take the kids with me somewhere safer leaving hubs to defend.
    We also intend on having a few grab bags packed for these kind of emergency events.
     
  6. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    I'm at Federal which is a few k's north of Pomona on the old highway.
    I'm in a rain shadow under Black mountain so it's usually much drier here than in Pomona (or even the valley communities to my west).
    But I'm at the northern end of the mountain range so the westerlies get around that top end of the range and roar down the eastern side of the valley to dry us out even more.
    Had I realised this lay of the land, I would never have settled for this ex-Traveston dam property!
    It's been a nightmare of dry season after dry season while those around still have reasonable soil moisture (and deeper top soil as well). I miss out on all the small rain at beginning and end of every wet season.
    For me wet season is a mere 4mths long from mid-Feb to June then snaps back into total dryness.
    So right now the water I have stored still has to last almost another 6 mths!
    I have to count myself lucky if I get anything decent from spring storms. Usually just the wind and lightning.
     
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