fire season

The downside of summer – other than the endless hot, dry weather, which is not as much fun as you might imagine, and the constant dual risk of sunburn and heatstroke – is fire season. So many things can start a bushfire: a cigarette tossed out a car window by a clueless tourist, an unmanaged BBQ, a freak lightning storm (sadly not accompanied by a summer rain), a spark from an angle-grinder, a gum tree overheating in the 40+ degree (celcius) weather and spontaneously combusting due to the oils it exudes into the air, …

It doesn’t matter, at the end of the day, how they start though. What matters is the broadcast text message from the Department of Fire & Emergency Services saying ‘bushfires in your area, prepare to evactuate or actively defend’. The nervous wait while you hope that its a small fire, that its easily contained, that the wind dies down. The neighbour who tells you that this happens every year, and three years ago it got close enough that they could see the flames on the ridge. What matters is making the decision to leave the house, just in case, because there are fires north, south, and west of you and the wind is picking up and blowing east. Driving through the road blocks as they’re being set up to prevent people going where you just came from.

Fire season is scary.

WA hasn’t had any fire tornadoes (yet) but just plain old fires are still scary. Five people have died already this summer in the fires in Esperance, on the south coast. At the moment we have the relatively easy evacuation option of packing the cats into the car and driving to my parents house, but the more animals we get the harder that decision will be. How hard must it be for people with horses, or cattle, if I felt bad about leaving our week old guinea fowl keets and our chickens?

We left on Sunday evening. It looks like we can probably go home tonight. The fires have been downgraded to “advice” level (no current danger to lives or homes but watch for changes to conditions and have a plan for what to do if conditions worsen) rather than “emergency” (extreme threat to lives and homes) or “watch and act” (threat to lives and homes, leave now or prepare to actively defend).

In spite of the risks, the fires have (so far) not actually approached our house. The roads were closed but as of this morning there have been no fatalities from this fire, and only one house and two sheds have been lost. And having had a big burn this earlky int he season, we’re much less likely to see another big, dangerous fire in this area this summer, because evrything flammable has already burned off.

Makes you think, though. Without the fire fighters, and the air support planes and helicopters watching the spread & direction of the fire front and dumping water on it, fires like that would just blaze through an entire district. leaving ash and scorchmarks behind them. Moral of the story: this is not the place to wait out the zombie apocalypse if civilisation (and its associated benefits, like fire fighters and roads and early warning systems) fail.


  1. I follow your blog and love it. I wait with anticipation for every installment. My partners family has a block of land where we do a little bit of growing and gardening according to permaculture principles. We share some more of your interests :). But returning to the main topic – “The Summer is Coming” and the fire season is upon as again. There are ways to make your area safer for the animals and to have a better chance to save your home. I think “Grass Roots” had a few good articles last year. Some deciduous plants act like fire retardants and they are worth planting. Having firebreaks and automatic sprinklers/rainwater discharge points for difficult areas is good if you get an early warning. Also good to have a fire-fighting ute with an ibc full of water to sprinkle your firebreaks. We don’t have one but our neighbors have it and in the case of fire whoever is around will spread some water around before escaping. You are great at reading up and collating information for others. I am sure you’ll come up with a good fire plan and a setup that is safer for animals. Then you just open the taps, set the sprinklers, grab your beautiful cats and run away…

  2. Thanks! 🙂

    We definitely have plans for fire-proofing (as far as possible) our place – we just don’t have them in yet. Once we have all our water tanks in we’ll have a lot more options.

    We’re planting shelter belts of fire retardant trees and shrubs around the house, and also around the perimeter of the property. We’re going to put a sprinkler system in to throw water on our roof to keep embers form lighting fire if they do blow in, and the roof is steel anyway so that’s a relatively low risk. We might look into a similar thing for the animal shelters, chicken coop etc. And an IBC on the back of a small and very mobile vehicle is a great plan – our neighbour has a similar thing, to run about and put out spot fires.

    We’re also thinking about putting in a fire bunker. Not so much for us (although as a last resort, that too) but for our less movable animals, once we get them, and our documents and electronics.

    Give me a few weeks to read up on all the options and I might put a post together on what people could and should do to prepare for and minimise their risks during the fire season.

  3. That’s great! I’ll be looking forward to reading about it 🙂 We are a few steps behind you (not in the creepy sense though – just trying to establish a permaculture garden in a place where we can only go about 2 times a week) and we are appreciating the knowledge you are sharing. Thank you.

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