How to Prepare Your Home for a Bushfire

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Get Your Home & Garden Ready for Bushfire Season

Bushfires are unpredictable and may arrive without warning. Preparing your home for a bushfire is important, even if you plan to leave early. A well-prepared home will offer more protection if a fire threatens suddenly and you are forced to remain where you are. It’ll be easier for you and firefighters to defend, and is less likely to put your neighbours’ homes at risk.

Preparing Your Home in Advance

Long before bushfire season starts, there are a lot of things you can do to guarantee a safer home.

Tidy Up

Keeping the area around your home clear of flammable debris and vegetation can slow the spread of a bushfire, and will provide firefighters with a safe area to defend your property.

  • Maintain your garden and keep the grass cut short during bushfire season.
  • Clear out overgrown vegetation, branches and leaves from around your home, and especially your roof valleys and gutters. Consider a professional gutter cleaning service if your roof is difficult to access.
  • Remove flammable material from around your property, e.g. door mats, piles of wood, mulch and compost, grass clippings, leaves, blankets in dog kennels, outdoor furniture, gardening equipment, etc.
The bushfire resistant Elemental House in High Camp, Victoria
The bushfire resistant “Elemental House” in High Camp, Victoria, designed by Ben Callery Architects, is surrounded by a gravel and rock garden that reduces the risk from flammable vegetation. Image source:

Consider Your Garden Plan

Keeping things neat and tidy is important, but if you live in a bushfire-prone area, it’s best to have your garden planned in such a way that leaves your actual house secure.

  • Keep trees and garden beds a safe distance from the house, particularly if you want them to grow very thickly.
  • Consider using pebbles and tiles closer to your home, instead of flammable vegetation.
  • Consider keeping a dug area around the perimeter of your house, to act as another barrier against the fire.
  • Ensure that the fencing and other structures around your home are non-combustible.

Ensure Easy Path to Water

If you have a pool, spa, tank or dam, firefighters can use it in their efforts to put out a fire, and ultimately save your home. Make sure to display a Static Water Supply (SWS) sign at the entrance to your property, so firefighters know where they can access water.

When you decide to leave the property, unlock gates and remove covers to make sure your water source is easily accessible.

A helicopter dumping water on a bushfire
Firefighters will use the most readily-available water sources when fighting a bushfire, including dams and swimming pools.

Repair, Replace, and Install

Well before peak bushfire season, it’s important to undertake home repairs and installations to make your house more protected.

  • Install fine metal fly screens on windows, doors and vents.
  • Repair damaged or missing roof tiles, and fix other issues like lifted-up edges or rust patches on corrugated roofs.
  • Install bushfire gutter guards, to protect your guttering and downpipes from wind-borne bushfire embers.
  • Install a Residential Fire Sprinkler System, which will automatically detect a fire and act to suppress or extinguish it.
  • Enclose any areas under the house, and cover gaps in external walls.
  • Check that your smoke alarms are functional.
Bushfire gutter guards help protect your gutters and roof from ember attack.

Home Insurance

Our tips will help you keep your home safe, but there is still a risk that your home will get damaged during a bushfire.

Having great home insurance that covers all types of fire damage is a worthy expense that can protect your family from severe financial loss.

Always Follow Your Local Fire Authority’s Advice

Any advice we give here is meant to be general, and every area has its own unique circumstances. Check in with your local fire authority, such as the CFA, for guidelines relevant to your area, and stay up to date with their recommendations.

Defending Your Property During Emergencies

Emergency services will do everything they can to help you, but there’s no guarantee that the fire brigade or other authorities will be nearby and available when you need them.

Access roads may also be blocked by fallen trees, and even if firefighters are nearby, there may not be enough water available from nearby dams and reservoirs.

If you decide to stay and defend your property, it’s your sole responsibility to be adequately prepared.

A blocked road in Australia during a bushfire
Access roads might be blocked during a bushfire

Be Equipped

Defending your home from a bushfire can be challenging and you’ll need appropriate equipment.

  • Fire extinguisher.
  • Ladder or ladders, to safely access the roof both inside and outside your home.
  • Buckets and mops.
  • Shovels and metal rakes.
  • Hessian bags you can dampen.
  • A hose or hoses that can reach around your entire building.
  • Adequate spray nozzle attachments for the hoses.

Prepare a Water Supply

A water supply of at least 10,000 litres, in a water tank, dam, reservoir, or pool, will go a long way towards helping you fend off a fire. You’ll also want to prepare a water pump and fuel that is stored in a safe but accessible place. If it’s been a while, make sure to have your pump serviced to ensure it’ll function well in an emergency.

If you have time in advance, you could also fill your bathtub and any sinks (kitchen, laundry, bathroom) so you have easy access to water indoors if you need to put out spot-fires.

However, if your water supply is connected to the mains, it’s best not to do this while firefighters are in the area. They might be relying on the pressure and ready supply.

You May Lose Power

It’s worth remembering that if your home catches fire, it will almost certainly lose power due to the number of high voltage power lines running through bushland. Having a generator prepared well in advance will come in handy if you do lose power.

You might also want to have a means of communicating with the outside world (a landline telephone, a fully charged mobile phone, walkie talkies, a CB radio). A battery-powered transistor radio to listen to ABC local radio emergency updates is also recommended.

A bushfire burns near power lines
Bushfires can take down power lines, leaving entire communities without electricity.

When Fire is Imminent

When the risk of bushfires coming near your home is especially high, here are a few final things you can do to protect your home.

  • Do a final sweep for any fire hazards in your yard or around your home.
  • Use a mop to dampen doors and windows, and consider also hosing down your roof and eaves.
  • Put a wet hessian bag along the bottom of your door.
  • Plug your downpipes and fill your gutters with water.
  • Turn off any gas supply to the house, and remove any gas bottles from the property.
  • Close air conditioning and duct vents (any HVACs still running should be on a recycled/recirculated air setting).

Stay Safe

When it comes to bushfires, preparation is everything. As long as you consider the risks well in advance, and make preparations both in the long and short term, your chances of keeping your home and family safe grow significantly. We always recommend leaving when there is a threat of bushfire; but, if you don’t, these preparation tips may help save your home and your life!