By Parker McKenzie
Both the Country Fire Authority (CFA) and the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) are encouraging Victorians to take steps towards protecting themselves from bushfires ahead of the 2021-22 bushfire season.
The Dandenong Ranges and Yarra Valley are considered high risk of bushfires because of the intersection of public and private land, as well as high density of people and potential fuel for a fire.
The Australian and New Zealand National Council for fire and emergency services has indicates the potential for an average to lower-than average bushfire season in Victoria in their seasonal outlook for December and February, however, CFA Chief Officer Jason Heffernan warned Victorians not to get complacent.
“We know it only takes one bad day to have a bad fire season so we need to stay vigilant this summer,” he said.
“Many people have already prepared their properties, but recent wet conditions mean we’ve seen a lot of vegetation growth, so it’s important to keep maintaining your property by keeping your grass low and any other vegetation cut back as well.”
After an unprecedented fire season two years ago saw regional communities devastated and the state clouded in smoke, the VBA is encouraging people to prepare early.
The VBA’s State Building Surveyor Andrew Cialini said it is important to prepare early because Victoria is one of the most bushfire prone areas in the world.
“Being prepared early is key, don’t wait until it’s too late, start updating your survival plans now and get your home ready for fire season,” he said.
“Steps you can take now include clearing leaves from gutters and installing leaf-guards, as well as protecting evaporative coolers with properly sized metal bushfire mesh screens.”
Mr Heffernan said the start of summer was timely reminder to make a bushfire safety plan if you do not already have one in place.
“Before you get too busy with festive season celebration and Christmas shopping, spend some time to make a plan to keep your family safe,” he said.
“Your plan should include things like which fire danger rating will be your trigger to leave, where you will go, and what route you will take and it should always contain different scenarios and back-up plans.”
Mr Cialini said homeowners can contact a registered building practitioner to see how they can retrofit their properties with additional safety features as a part of their bushfire safety plan.
“There are easy and affordable things owners can do to protect their properties from things like ember attack,” he said.
“You can seal gaps in the external walls and eaves with silicone, put silicon weather strips and draught excluders on windows and external doors, cover vents in external walls with metal bushfire mesh and seal around roofing joints and roof penetrations.”
Both the CFA and the VBA are encouraging people to leave early in the event of a bushfire in the area.
The VBA said leaving early means leaving the area before a fire starts and not only when you see flames or smell smoke.
Appropriately approved bushfire shelter are considered to be a last resort option in the event that fire prevents residents from leaving the area.
“Leaving early means leaving the night before or early in the morning of a high-risk fire day,” Mr Heffernan said.
“It means it’s easier to make good, rational decisions and avoid panic, becoming trapped and risking serious injury or death.”
The CFA website contains information about how to make a bushfire safety plan and preparing an emergency kit to bring when leaving early at cfa.vic.gov.au.
Residents in the Dandenong Ranges and Yarra Valley should keep updated on current fire incidents and risks at www.emergency.vic.gov.au/respond.