Maintain your yard

Maintaining your yard is an important part of protecting your property and assets. Living in a bush setting is wonderful, but it does come with responsibilities that are easily forgottent. Dont be complacent. As the weather warms get prepared, especially if you haven't experienced bushfire in the past of your yard is overgrown.

Landscape appropriately to create a buffer zone around your house and allow fire truck access; choose fire-resistant plants.

Living in a bushland setting poses a risk from bushfire, no matter where you live in Australia. You might not be able to stop a bushfire, but you can make it harder for a fire to reach your home by creating barriers and buffer zones around your home, which could stop or slow progress and give you extra time to extinguish the fire. Where houses adjoin bushland, an inner and outer asset protection zone is recommended.

Development on bushfire prone land requires a set back distance known as an asset protection zone or fire protection zone, which is a buffer zone between a bushfire hazard and buildings. The aim of this buffer zone is to minimise available fuel, reduce radiant heat and prevent flame and ember contact, and therefore protect human life, property and valuable assets. The optimal width of asset protection zones depends on slope, surrounding vegetation, likely Fire Danger Index and construction level.  

Creating a buffer zone (ideally at least 10 metres) between strategically placed barriers, such as stone or brick walls or fire-resistant trees and shrubs, could give you additional time to deal with burning debris and advancing flames, which might destroy your home. This buffer zone also provides access for fire fighters, fire trucks and occupants, and a relatively safe area where property defence can be established or back burning can be commenced.

A green safety zone around your home can reduce fire risk by decreasing the fire's intensity, reducing wind speeds, and shielding your house from extreme beat. Trees and shrubs can also catch flying embers and sparks. Creating and maintaining a defendable space around your home increases the chances of a home surviving the fire front, by reducing the chance of direct flame contact and radiant heat igniting your home during the passage of the fire front. For example, fire does not spread easily over low-fuel areas such as driveways, pools, tennis courts, gravel, and mown lawns.

Using fire-retardant trees in areas prone to bushfires not only enhances the landscape, but when selected and placed appropriately they can assist in safeguarding homes in the event of a bushfire. Your decisions will impact how the fire moves, what actually burns, and how much flaming embers are blown about.

Vegetation can form part of a fire barrier if it holds moisture throughout summer or creates a continuous screen from understorey to canopy. Look for plants where the leaves have high moisture and mineral content, low oil levels, and fine form. Also, plants with limited foliage, low dead foliage, and foliage clear of the ground are preferred. Trees with tight-fitting, continuous bark can't 'catch' burning embers. Avoid planting trees that annually shed bark in long stands, such as Stringybark Eucalypts.

Talk to your local nursery about appropriate species for your particular location.

Cut back trees and shrubs against or overhanging the house; trim low-lying branches two metres from the ground surrounding your home.

Trees and shrubs against or overhanging the house provide fuel to sustain bushfires, so cut back overgrown trees and shrubs at the beginning of summer, to reduce the risk of loss to fire. Because you live in a double-storey home you probably don't have a clear view of the top of your house.

Ensure that tall trees, such as eucalypts that you can't see, aren't in contact with the roof. Remove any dead trees and branches from your property, in particular from around the house, as these are sure to provide fuel for a bushfire and increase the fire intensity.

Burning shrubs close to houses can crack windows and allow embers to enter the house. They can also ignite wooden structures, outdoor furniture and pergolas. Once your property has been properly prepared you should keep up a regular maintenance routine.

Mow your grass regularly; remove excess ground fuels, such as dead leaves and branches.

Vegetation debris such as bark, leaf and fallen limbs form base fuel loads, which aid the spread of fire. Burning yard debris is the most common cause for a home catching fire. Especially in strong winds, fallen leaves and braches, and long grass fuel the fire (think of the kindling you use to start a camp fire). Burning debris and can be carried into or onto the house, which then becomes enflamed.

All flammable material within 20 metres of your house should be removed, including dead branches, fallen leaves and long grass. If your house is located on a slope, an extended area should be cleared.

Trees and shrubs against or overhanging the house also provide fuel, so cut back overgrown trees and shrubs at the beginning of summer, to reduce the risk of loss to fire.

You'll need a long ladder to reach your roof and manholes. Keep your gutters free from leaves to eliminate an ignition source for embers. If you have time, fill your gutters with water.