Summer in Perth is well known for being hot and dry with very little rainfall. Our average temperatures range from 17.5 minimum - 32°C maximum. In the afternoons we hang out for a hint of the ‘Fremantle Doctor' to provide some relief from the heat.
Long dry summers, flammable vegetation and ignition from lightning or human causes mean that bushfires occur every summer.
What is a bushfire?
A bushfire is an uncontrolled fire that burns through grass, scrub, bush, or forests; it’s also known as a wildfire.
Common causes of bushfires include lightning, arcing from overhead powerlines, arson, controlled-burn escapes, and accidental ignition (e.g., discarded cigarettes, unextinguished campfires).
Local topography influences the threat of bushfires: Those in steep, forested areas are generally more severe, unpredictable, and harder to fight than blazes along flat, grassy areas, for example.
Preparing your home for bushfires
Bushfires happen every summer. They can start suddenly and without warning. It’s important to understand your risks and plan what you’ll do to keep safe when a bushfire threatens your life or home.
You can make your home bushfire ready by:
- Cleaning your gutters so they’re leaf and debris free
- Repairing damaged or missing roof tiles, enclosing any areas under your house
- Clearing up fallen leaves and debris around your property
- Keeping lawns short and gardens maintained
- Fitting seals around windows and doors to eliminate any gaps
- Make sure your insurance is up to date and covers your home and its contents in the case of a fire
- Check your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms to ensure they are fully functional. https://www.housing.wa.gov.au/HousingDocuments/RCD_and_Smoke_Alarm_Fact_Sheet.pdf
These precautions will help your home better resist embers, or if your house does fall victim to a bushfire, they will help fire fighters control the fire better and impose less risk to neighbouring homes.
Download the DFES Bushfire Preparedness Toolkit
Is your insurance up to date?
Most insurers will factor in where your home is located when calculating your premium. Because living in a bushfire-prone area increases your risk of damage or loss from a fire, this will likely increase the premium you are charged. If you are not sure if your home is in a bushfire-prone area, check with your rural or regional fire service, or your local council or state government for details. Your provider may also be able to help you.
To find out whether your property is located within the Bushfire Prone Areas, you may search for your address on the Map of Bushfire Prone Areas. https://maps.slip.wa.gov.au/landgate/bushfireprone/
The Map of Bushfire Prone Areas identifies land in Western Australia that has the potential to be impacted by bushfires. This land is designated by the Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner. Additional planning and building requirements may apply to new proposals within a bushfire prone area.
For proposed developments in bushfire prone areas, additional planning and building requirements may apply to within a bushfire prone area. More information can be found here: https://www.wa.gov.au/government/document-collections/state-planning-policy-37-planning-bushfire-prone-areas
Depending on your policy, these may include loss or damage arising from:
- Heat, ash, soot, and smoke when your home or contents have not caught on fire, unless it is caused by a burning building within a certain distance of your home
- Electrical arcing, scorching, or melting where there were no flames, unless a fire spreads from the initial burn spot
- Deliberate, malicious or criminal acts carried out by the policy holder and/or family members, or by guests to the house
There may also be exclusions surrounding items which are designed to be exposed to heat, such as cooking appliances or home heaters. If these items are damaged or destroyed during normal use, then cover may not be available to replace or repair them. However, if a fire starts from these items and that fire damages other items in your home or the home itself, then your insurance may provide a level of cover. Check your PDS.
How is a home’s bushfire risk calculated?
In Australia, a home’s susceptibility to bushfire is described in terms of its Bushfire Attack Level (BAL).
The BAL is a measure of the severity of a building’s potential exposure to ember attack, radiant heat, and direct flame contact.
Part of Australian Standard (AS) 3959-2009, Construction of buildings in bushfire-prone areas
, the BAL ratings are used to determine the construction requirements for homes approved and built (or rebuilt) after 10 September 2009. The standard – introduced in the wake of the ‘Black Saturday’ bushfires in Victoria, which killed 173 people and damaged or destroyed more than 2000 homes – aims to reduce the risk of a building igniting during a bushfire. The higher a building site’s BAL, the more stringent the construction requirements, which cover floors, roofs, external walls and windows, verandas, and carports. To find out more visit: https://www.bushfireprone.com.au/faqs/
It’s all about preparation, for further information visit https://www.dfes.wa.gov.au/emergencywa/prepare