Friday, 5 June 2015

Ensuring homeowners are more self-reliant

One of the major problems as I see it with respect to bushfires and the impact that they may have on homes at the Rural Urban Interface is that, many properties are more at risk of bushfire attack than they need be.

A few simple actions taken by residents that include making their house more ember proof and removing vegetation from the immediate surrounds of their house and sheds can make them a whole lot safer.
Dry grass and prunings from shrubs grown too large are taken to the local
waste station to be burnt under controlled conditions. We can't burn
at home during fire season which includes March when this picture
was taken.

Many shrubs can grow to be a large bush in just a few years, so every year or so it is best to do an audit of the surrounds of the home and reduce the size of some of them or if they have foliage with volatile oils, consider removing them altogether.

Centre, a large vigorous Cotoneaster. Very robust it was pruned by a third,
two years ago and has regrown to be as big as before.
In the picture, left, a large Cotoneaster is growing well, too well for where it is, which is within about 10 metres of the Cottage that we have at the front of the property. We could continue to prune it every couple of years to keep it lower, but I am seriously considering taking it out altogether and replacing with a smaller growing, less vigorous shrub that will be easier to maintain, still provide some screening and be less of a fire risk.

The above are examples of what a homeowner in a Rural Interface Zone, as we are, needs to be doing to make themselves less at risk from bushfire attack.  We have a very small local bushfire brigade so in any bushfire we are likely to be on our own.

This predicament faces many residents in the RUI areas of the Perth metropolitan area and the South West of Western Australia. The number of households in the RUI in southern WA would run into hundreds of thousands. Many properties are not at all arranged to be at a low risk of bushfire attack.

How can people in this areas be encouraged and brought on board to be more self-reliant, educate themselves and be more self-reliant with respect to bushfire risk.

I wrote recently in a comment to a blog "Wildfire in the West"

"Somehow we need to encourage homeowners at the WUI to be more self-reliant and keen to ensure their properties are at low risk of wildfire attack. Perhaps we need to use the tools of marketing and advertising - put less emphasis on fear campaigns, "Do this or you'll get burnt out" - and more on positive outcomes. "Do this and you'll have a relaxing fire season because your property looks great and uncluttered, like a park." Another example, "Take out those two conifers near the house and you'll get more sun in winter, no more needles on the roof and an easy-care garden (and a lower fire risk)."

We need to stress the positive and use the tools of educators and marketing professionals to bring about behavioural change with respect to managing bushfire/wildfire risk. It would be the most cost-effective way to go.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Fire season blues
Fire pump
Testing the fire pump to see if it starts easily and runs properly.
Also helped to spread some moisture around near the house.
A hot wind from the east blew all day, drying the soil and plants even more from last week.

(I started this blog in January and have now come back to it in early May. Oh well, better late than ever. A great deal has happened since then.)

This was taken earlier this year in late January when the conditions were very dry. Typically January and February are the driest months and the chance of bushfires starting and spreading rapidly is greatest.

In fact as it turned out the first three months of 2015 was one of the busiest for emergency authorities, with the Northcliffe and Boddington fires being extremely large and destructive.

A substantial wooden bridge was destroyed in the Boddington bushfire - sometimes called the Hotham bushfire.
The Long Gully Bridge - an example of a wooden trestle bridge