Bushfires in Australia: What you need to know
Australia is a beautiful country that is home to so many unique and diverse ecosystems. Unfortunately, each year, these ecosystems are threatened by bushfires — and these can have devastating effects on both the environment and our local communities.
It’s why it’s essential that Australians not only understand the risks associated with bushfires but take steps to prepare yourself and your property. Bushfires in Australia can occur at any time of the year, but the severity and the timing of your “bushfire season” will vary depending on where you live.
Bushfires in Australia have killed more than 800 people since 1851 — which is an absolutely devastating impact. As well as this loss of life, each year, homes, properties, and livestock are destroyed and have the potential to leave people homeless, traumatised, and without access to electricity, telecommunications and, in some cases, drinking water.
What are the causes of bushfires in Australia?
Understanding the causes of these awful natural disasters can help us understand how to prevent bushfires.
These are a natural part of Australia’s environment, and they can be caused by a variety of factors. Some of the most common causes of bushfires in Australia include lightning strikes, human activity, and dry weather conditions. Lightning strikes are a common cause of bushfires in Australia, particularly in the northern and eastern parts of the country. During the dry season, lightning strikes can ignite dry vegetation, causing fires to spread quickly and unpredictably.
Another significant cause of bushfires in Australia can be what we as humans do. Many fires are a result of either deliberate arson or carelessness. However, these fires normally happen in readily accessible areas and are rapidly brought under control. Man-made events might include situations such as:
- Arcing overhead power lines
- Accidental ignition in the course of agricultural clearing
- Grinding and welding activities
- Cigarettes and dropped matches
- Sparks from machinery
- Controlled burn escapes.
These can cause fire to spread, dependent on the type and quantity of fuel that is available. Fuel, in this case, can include anything from trees, underbrush and dry grassy fields to homes.
Wind supplies the fire with additional oxygen, which pushes the fire across the land at a faster rate. Electric power lines being brought down or arcing in high winds have also caused fires. Even events such as camping, cooking, and using power tools outdoors have ignited fires.
Dry weather conditions
During periods of drought, vegetation can become extremely dry and flammable, which in turn, increases the risk of bushfires in Australia.
Similarly, high temperatures and strong winds can cause fires to spread quickly. The wind, in particular, makes these difficult to contain.
Recently, most major bushfires have been started in remote areas by lightning. During periods of drought, the fuel for wildfires is greater and drier than normal, and bushfires combine to become mega-fires, generating their own weather and spreading the fire further.
The Importance of Bushfire Awareness in Australia
Bushfire awareness is critical for all Australians, regardless of whether you live in a bushfire-prone area or not.
By understanding the risks associated with bushfires and knowing how to prepare for them, you can help reduce the impact of fires on the environment and your local community.
One of the most important aspects of bushfire awareness is knowing what to do in the event of a fire. This includes having a plan in place for evacuating your home or property, as well as knowing where to go if you need to seek shelter. It’s also essential to stay informed about bushfire conditions in your area, so you can take appropriate action if necessary.
Preparing Your Property for Bushfire Season
Another crucial aspect of bushfire awareness is preparing your property for bushfire season. There are a variety of steps you can take to reduce the risk of your property being damaged by fire, including:
- Clearing gutters and removing debris from around your home.
- Trimming trees and removing overhanging branches.
- Ensuring that your property is well-maintained and free from flammable materials:
- Remove flammable door mats.
- Don’t store firewood under or near structures
- Face LPG pressure relief valves away from structures
- Installing fire-resistant shutters and screens on windows and doors.
- Considering fire-resistant plants/hedges around your structure.
- Creating a clear space around your property by removing vegetation and other flammable materials.
- 1.5 times the height of your trees clear from your house.
- Having a reliable source of water available for firefighting purposes.
- Maintain access to your property for firefighting vehicles 4m wide x 4m high.
- Keeping your property well-maintained and free from clutter.
- Ensuring that you have adequate insurance coverage in the event of a fire.
- Will you leave early? Or will you stay and defend?
- The Role of the Government in Bushfire Awareness
The Australian Government plays a crucial role in bushfire awareness and management. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in government funding for bushfire prevention and management, including the development of new technologies and firefighting equipment.
Along with providing funding, the government also runs a range of awareness campaigns to educate the public about bushfire risks and what they can do to prepare themselves and their properties. This includes initiatives such as the “Prepare, Act, Survive” campaign, which provides practical advice and resources to help Australians prepare for and learn how to prevent bushfires.
The government also works closely with local communities and emergency services to coordinate responses to bushfires. This includes providing support and resources to any affected communities and coordinating firefighting efforts, evacuation plans, and how bushfire warnings are rolled out.
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