5 practices to defend your home from forest fires

July 29, 2015

Though no home is fire-proof, by avoiding certain shapes and materials you can make any building significantly safer. If you live in a high-risk area, follow these guidelines to protect your home from forest fires.

5 practices to defend your home from forest fires

1. Practice preventative design when building a home

  • Simple designs and conservative decorations are generally best. When constructing your home, try to minimize superfluous nooks and crannies.
  • Build your home as close to the ground as possible so that the walls are of minimum height.  This reduces the possible surface area where sparks or embers could lodge.

2. Reduce your risk with the proper roof

  • Steep roofs should be avoided as they provide a broad surface for radiant heat. A roof that avoids valleys and with a pitch of approximately 15 degrees is safest.
  • Gutters should be metal and must have gutter guards. Leafless gutters are ideal for areas prone to forest fires.
  • If you're connected to a main water supply and your local council allows it, build a good-sized roof overhang with perfectly sealed eaves and eliminate gutters altogether.

3. Safely seal windows and doors

  • Ensure that you seal any possible point of entry for embers or sparks. Check around door and window openings, under the floors and eaves, and around the roof tiles.
  • Windows are the most vulnerable part of a house because their glass shatters easily when exposed to high temperatures. Metal insect screens over windowed areas provides some protection for glass and stops embers from entering the house if the window breaks.
  • Consider external shutters which close off the windows altogether.
  • Timber or aluminium windows are equally suitable for fire protection.
  • In areas of extreme fire risk, consider a fireproof refuge room with a steel-frame and wired-glass windows.

4. Get rid of combustible items

  • Don't allow combustible junk to build up under or around the house.
  • Keep firewood heaps a minimum of 10 metres (32 feet) away.
  • Inside the house, try to avoid synthetic and cotton furnishings, as these can burn well and often generate overpowering fumes.

5. Follow this fire-wise precaution checklist

If forest fires are a possibility in your neighborhood, consider the following precautions:

  • Plant windbreaks of high moisture-content trees in locations where the greatest risk exists. Orchards tend to shield against sparks and embers.
  • Make it a habit to regularly check and clean guttering, spouting, and other roof areas.
  • Put your dam near the house, between it and the most likely direction of a fire.
  • Do not plant trees near buildings and power lines.
  • Keep gardens near the house free of dense shrub plantings.
  • Store flammable materials away from the house and sheds.
  • Seal off under-floor spaces and fill cracks or holes that appear in the walls or roof.
  • Maintain all roads and tracks so that motor vehicles can easily access your property.
  • If your location is remote, place a portable diesel or petrol water pump near your water tank
  • Buy a garden hose long enough to comfortably encircle the house and purchase a fog nozzle for use during fires

If you live in a high-risk area, it's important to take precautions against destructive fires. Fortunately, there's no shortage of steps you can take to reduce your risk. These tips will help relieve your worries and protect your home.

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