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Property owners urged to prepare for early bushfire season

August 11, 2023
  • The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has raised an El Nino alert, increasing the likelihood of drier weather in eastern Australia and above-average temperatures for the southern two-thirds of the country.
  • As a result, experts, including the NSW Rural Fire Service Association (RFSA), anticipate an early start to the bushfire season due to the milder winter experienced this year.
  • While property owners can’t control the harsh summer climate, they can take proactive measures to safeguard their properties and communities.

Despite the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) yet to declare an El Niño[1], numerous experts agree that bushfires remain an ongoing and considerable risk to properties in both rural and urban areas.

Angus Raine, Executive Chairman Raine & Horne, said, “The risk of bushfire increases as the mercury jumps in the warmer months, especially with the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM)[2] moving to an El Nino Alert, which means there is a higher chance of drier weather in eastern Australia and it's more likely to be warmer than usual for the southern two-thirds of Australia.”

Consequently, experts such as the NSW Rural Fire Service Association (RFSA) are predicting this year’s bushfire season to start early because of a warmer winter.

“There is very little we can do about our warm climate, however, there is plenty we can do to ensure our homes are safe this bushfire season, whether we live on Sydney’s leafy North Shore or near a major National Park,” said Mr Raine.

“By taking some precautions, property owners can significantly reduce the risk of fire damage to their properties and enhance the overall safety of their communities during the bushfire season.”

Kristian Bingham, Sales Manager at Raine & Horne Gosford and East Gosford, which provides real estate services to various areas on the Central Coast of NSW that are prone to bushfire risks, offers valuable tips to safeguard properties this summer.

“One essential step is to ensure that you have a garden hose that can reach the entire perimetre of your property. It is crucial to check that all hoses and tap fittings are in excellent working condition.

“Facing a bushfire with a faulty or inadequate hose can be a dire situation, so it's essential to be prepared,” Mr Bingham recommended.

“Take a thorough look around your home for any recycling materials, particularly flammable liquids, or paint, located close to the property. Such items can act as fuel for fires and should be stored safely away from the property.

“If you use gas bottles for barbecues, keep them in a fire-safe location. It's crucial to exercise extreme caution when using a barbecue during blustery bushfire conditions.”

Also, Mr Bingham recommends residents contact their local Rural Fire Service (RFS) branch for insights into how they can make their homes safe from bushfires this year.

“If your home is under threat from bushfires, monitor directions from authorities such as the RFS closely, and do not risk your life to save your home.”

On Sydney’s leafy Upper North Shore, Chris Hopkins, Principal of Raine & Horne Hornsby, says, “The Rural Fire Service is warning residents to be prepared for an early start to the bushfire season, particularly in bushland areas such as the Hornsby Shire. 

“To help make your home safer this summer trim back trees and shrubs close to your home and keep the grass cut short and dispose of the clippings,” Mr Hopkins advised.

Mr Hopkins also urged residents to talk to neighbours about their prevention plans and work together to ensure everyone in the immediate vicinity is taking the threat of bushfires seriously. 

“Working together will reduce the risk to everyone in your neighbourhood.”

Tony Hopper, Co-Principal of Raine & Horne Mollymook/Ulladulla/Milton, situated on the South Coast region of NSW that was severely impacted by the 2019 Black Summer bushfires, highlighted the importance of property owners having plans in place before the warmer weather begins.

“Many parts of our region were gutted by bushfires in 2019 that were so severe that even the best-laid plans couldn’t protect some homes and lives. Throw in the fact that we’ve only had about 50 mm of rain this year, and there are people in this region who are aware of the risks,” he said.

However, Mr Hopper suggested there are still some basic steps property owners can take to reduce the risks from bushfires, including cleaning out gutters and other roof fittings regularly. 

“Leaves and garden debris can accumulate and become highly flammable when dry, making them susceptible to flying embers, which could pose a serious risk during a bushfire."

For those who have woodpiles left over from winter, Mr Hopper advises keeping them at a safe distance from the house. “Woodpiles can serve as additional fuel for a bushfire if they are too close to the property.

“Overhanging branches from trees are another potential fire hazard, according to Mr Hopper.

“If homeowners are unable to trim the trees themselves, consider hiring a gardener or arborist to prune the branches away from the house, reducing the risk of fire spreading.”

Angus Raine’s six crucial steps to safeguard your property this bushfire season

  1. Garden hose safety: Ensure a functional hose reaches your property's perimetre. Regularly check hoses and fittings for effectiveness. A reliable water source is crucial during bushfires.
  2. Taking precautions with combustible materials. Safely contain or store flammable liquids and paint away from the property.
  3. Gas bottle storage: Keep barbecue gas bottles in a fire-safe location. Exercise caution during blustery bushfire conditions.
  4. Neighbourhood watch and consultation: Share bushfire safety tips with neighbours to enhance community resilience. Discuss plans and precautions, especially near bushland or parks.
  5. Firebreak clearance: Living near bushland? Ensure a cleared firebreak with help from the local council or RFS to protect your neighbourhood.
  6. Property maintenance: Clean the gutters and remove flammable debris regularly. Store woodpiles safely, trim overhanging branches, and maintain a well-kept lawn to reduce fire hazards.