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Wildfires

What do you do when a bushfire occurs?

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September 21, 2011 9:36PM

Bushfires are commonplace in Australia, in both rural areas and suburban fringes, and it is wise to be aware of your choices in the event of an impending bushfire.

The first decision that needs to be made in case of a bushfire is whether you will stay and actively defend your property, or evacuate. The advantage of staying is that you are present at your property to put out small spot fires after the main fire has passed. The disadvantages, of course, involve the risks to personal safety. It is unlikely that you will be able to outrun a bushfire, so if you stay, you must have a plan to escape being burnt.

If you choose to evacuate, pack the minimal essentials , including vital papers, ensure your pets are catered for, and carefully plan your route to avoid fire areas.

If a bushfire is approaching (and indeed, prior to bushfire season starting) you should ensure gutters and eaves are clear of leaves and debris, and that vegetation is not growing close to your house. Remove these potential fuel sources, and try to create a fire break around your house. Many people choose to douse their gutters and walls with water, which can help, depending on the severity of the bushfire.

Prepare an emergency kit, which includes such things as non-perishable food, medical supplies and/or first aid kit, drink bottles, buckets, water containers, portable radio with spare batteries, torch and first aid kit. It's also a good idea to have a fire fighting kit containing items such as long sleeved shirt and trousers, leather gloves, broad brimmed hat, goggles/safety glasses and sturdy footwear such as boots.

If you are in a position where you are not near any shelter, you have few choices. People have been known to survive bushfires by remaining immersed in a creek or river until the fire passes, but the surface temperature of th water becomes frighteningly hot. If you cannot out run it or you are surrounded by the fire, you can set a fire where you are and try to direct this small fire away from you. By the time the larger inferno reaches you, there will be no fuel left to burn around you and you might survive.

However, bushfires on the scale seen in places like Australia will still have the strength and force to sweep over large tracts of fuel-less ground, still destroying anything in their path.