We love a sunburnt country but the combination of searing summer temperatures and dry conditions means bushfires are an all too common threat – and statistics seem to be forecasting that it’s getting worse. The NSW rural fire service reported that the summer of 2017 saw some of the most catastrophic fire conditions ever experienced.
To ensure guidelines are met, the NSW Government has produced the Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2006 document which outlines the building guidelines which all new housing developments must adhere to.
Zoning and assessment
Bushfire zones fall into six categories which are identified as Bushfire Attack Levels (BAL). Each category requires specific construction guidelines to provide appropriate protection. To ascertain which BAL your property falls into will require the appropriate site assessment.
These levels are identified as:
- Flame Zone (Alternative Solution required).
Most builders now provide valuable insights as to your sites bushfire vulnerability. They can also implement measures such as drenching systems and radiant heat shields, to satisfy performance criteria.
Trees and vegetation
To protect lives and homes from the threat of bushfires, the NSW Government has changed laws surrounding elements of home sites, including those involving vegetation. It is now a requirement that:
- undergrowth within 50 metres of specified bushfire prone buildings be cleared
- trees and vegetation within 10 metres of specified bushfire prone buildings be cleared
- areas able to be cleared will be known as ‘10/50’ vegetation clearing entitlement areas and will be determined by the Rural Fire Service (RFS).
These changes to legislation have been instigated to assist in making properties bushfire prepared whilst ensuring that the environment, landowners rights and safety, are maintained.
Recent legislation has undergone some changes in relation to house window assemblies in bushfire prone areas. AS from 1st January 2018, revised regulations require homebuilders to use AS3959-2009 compliant window assemblies.
Many people would be surprised to find that the slope that a house is set on, has a bearing on its bushfire safety. This is due to the fact that fire runs more readily and with greater intensity, uphill. Thus homes erected in bushfire-prone areas which are built on a slope, require a greater buffer zone.
To keep your family safe during a bushfire threat, begin planning early. The recommended bushfire protection methods to address are:
- Create a cleared zone around the house (fuel reduced areas)
- Make arrangements so your home is easily accessible
- Ensure the building construction, design and materials are compliant to bushfire protection legislation
- Ensure water supply and utilities meet the required specifications
- Implement bushfire resistant landscaping
- Have emergency management plans in place
The above outline of recommendations and guidelines is far from comprehensive but represents how committed the NSW Government is to reducing risks in bushfire prone areas.