The NSW Rural Fire Service has announced that bushfire season has been declared two months in advance of the customary date.
On 1 August, a dozen Local Government Areas launched the Bushfire Danger Period because of continual hot, dry conditions: Armidale Regional, Bega Valley, Eurobodalla, Glen Innes Severn, Inverell, Kempsey, Mid Coast, Nambucca, Port Macquarie Hastings, Tenterfield, Uralla and Walcha.
Some of these regions are already running low on water, a key helper in the battle against fire. As ABC reveals, Tenterfield has been forced to attain an emergency desalination plant to guarantee an abundance of sufficient potable water supplies. Armidale City Council is bringing treated potable water by truck to Guyra to replenish its dwindling town reservoir.
The official bushfire danger season in NSW generally kicks off 1 October, but as the NSW RFS noted, fires have been sparking earlier than usual.
NSW RFS acting commissioner Rob Rogers advises that residents and land managers should initiate preparations for the threat of bushfire.
Queensland’s state government, meanwhile, released a new State Heatwave Risk Assessment report in June that emphasises the need to prep for heat-related natural disasters that are more frequent and intense in nature.
In a forward prepared by Queensland Fire and Emergency Services chiefs, the report noted that we must collectively comprehend the impact of climate change on the current and future risk of natural hazards.
Bushfire is identified as a hazard related to heatwaves, as displayed through the spate of 2018 fires in that area. Conditions present at that time including raised temperatures day and night, lower humidity, a dry season, and stronger westerly winds – and the fires that resulted were unprecedented in the state’s history.
The primary message from Queensland, NSW, and state emergency experts is that we must plan for disasters—and bushfires in particular. And while a focus on elements like façade materials and final finishing details are important, the building’s entire lifecycle and body—including the roof system, wall system, floor system and subfloor system—must be rendered fire resistant and sustainable. And always, energy efficiency is paramount.
So how does one make homes and other buildings more fire-resistant? Here are a few ideas:
- Include as few “exploitable details” as possible. Design a roof sans a cavity, or with non-combustible roof framing, that fits tightly or boasts non-flammable insulation such as rockwools, natural wool or fibreglass.
- Choose non-flammable wall and ceiling insulation–sans spray-in foam polyurethane insulations. This type of insulation delivers an enhanced thermal performance.
- Choose earth walls–rammed earth, compressed earth or mudbrick, rendered hay bale walls—that deliver thermal comfort, low embodied carbon and acoustic insulation.
- Choose double brick that will outperform weatherboard or brick veneer on a timber frame, ensuring both energy and fire protection.
- Choose a steel frame over pine.
- Choose to follow The NASH Standard, the Deemed To Satisfy provision in the National Construction Code reserved for steel-framed houses designed and constructed in accordance with the National Association for Steel-framed Houses Standard.
- Choose window glazing consisting of high-performance toughened glass. Window and door frames should be a component of the whole wall system, with each element installed to reduce the chance for ignition.
- Choose to make your entire structure airtight.
- Choose non-combustible exits and escape paths.
- Choose nontoxic interior materials that include paints, wall linings, floor coverings, etc.
- Choose non-gas building options.
- Choose electric building options that include EV, solar panels, and home battery storage.
- Choose to install a home rainwater tank and roof sprinkler system supplied by the tank.
- Choose to install a SMART home automation system.
- Embrace passive housing concepts whenever possible.