Sheep and cattle farmer Craig Schneider gazes back at the enormity of the pyrocumulonimbus from the Sir Ivan bushfire, while he relocates his stock on his property near Coolah, NSW, in February 2017. PHOTO: Alex Ellinghausen (Fairfax)
Planning should start well before the bushfire season and be part of on-going property management. Ensure your Bushfire Survival Plan is up to date and to hand so you can ensure the safety of your family and your livestock during bushfires. Without plans, you could make panicked wrong decisions that threaten their safety.
Recent bushfire seasons have been long and intense. Their repercussions are still being felt by the many farmers. We hope that this year’s bushfire season will not be as bad, but being prepared with a plan and ensuring other people are familiar with the plan will make it easier to deal with if bushfire does threaten your family and livestock.
Plan ahead. It is important to act well before a fire starts. Making a choice when a bushfire threatens your property is too late. Practicing your plans will make them easier to implement if fire threatens. Ensure your Property Identification Code (PIC) is current and that all stock are identifiable to your property’s PIC.
Whilst caring for livestock before and after a bushfire is essential, your and your family’s personal safety should be considered as a first priority on all occasions.
20 ESSENTIAL STEPS BEFORE BUSHFIRE SEASON1
Country Fire Authority (CFA) of Victoria has produced a checklist of 20 essential steps for farmers to undertake before the fire season. They are useful in whatever state you are located.
- Have a routine in place for fire risk days (moving stock and limiting or postponing machinery use, switching off electric fences). Make sure everyone on your property is aware of it.
- Know your trigger to leave early on fire risk days and the trigger to leave for family members, employees or contractors. Plan for contingencies such as children at school.
- Create a heavily grazed area where stock can be moved to during a fire (see section below).
- Reduce fuel loads around assets (house blocks, sheds) and create strategic fuel breaks.
- Make sure there are no gaps between the cladding and the ground slab of your sheds to prevent embers getting inside.
- Double check that spark arrestors on machinery are working and efficient. Make sure chainsaws are free from faults.
- Have water fire extinguishers or knapsack spray pumps (minimum 9 litres) available that can be carried by any person using farm equipment or machinery.
- If you have private firefighting equipment, conduct a ‘refresher’ session with family and employees to make sure everyone can use it.
- If you plan to stay and defend a building during a bushfire, take steps to establish a water supply of at least 10,000 litres (independent of mains water supply).
Assisting emergency services
- Make sure your property number is clearly visible so emergency services can identify it when approaching the entrance.
- Check access tracks around your property. Consider if access for fire trucks can be improved by clearing vegetation, signposting dead ends or creating turning circles
- Make sure water supplies around your property are clearly marked in case emergency services need to access them.
- Have a safety strategy in place for storing and monitoring hay – purchase a moisture meter if necessary.
- Make sure hay is fully cured before baling.
Laws & permits
- Make a list of restrictions (including Fire Danger Period and Total Fire Ban) relevant to your property. Display it or keep it handy so everyone on your property can refer to it often and easily.
- Apply for the appropriate permit from your local council if you intend to burn off weeds, stubble or vegetation during the Fire Danger Period, or if you intend to use fire for any other purposes.
- Check with your local council to see if local laws are in place for lighting fires, burning off or using incinerators.
- Apply to the relevant authority if you need to remove vegetation or manage fuel on roadsides.