Fire resilient homes

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HBS Guy

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Number one rule is to reduce to zero fuel around your house: no wooden arbors, garden furniture within at least 3m. No plants/vegetation within a metre of the house.

No branches/foliage overhanging your home.

If you have decking or your house stands on stumps absolutely must have a fireproof skirting around the deck/house. Brick wall or fibrous cement around the decking/house.

Windows are a weak point in the fire defences of the house—embers will slam into them for hours. Windows must be closed, flammable curtains removed and insulated steel roll down shutters installed.

Ember attack can be for hours or days as winds blow embers for hundreds of metres from the fire front. There are ways embers can be “caught” so less reach your house. Roof, windows, doors, walls must stand up to this.

You also want to ensure firefighters will see your house and consider it can be saved. Have a wide driveway where the firetruck can drive in, park and escape from the block if needed—don’t clutter the front yard too much! Around the house firefighters must be able to move freely—wide paths, uncluttered navigation around the house and useful amounts of water in rainwater tank or cistern etc immediately obvious—remember there will be embers, smoke everywhere, firefighters in a hurry so ensure things are uncluttered with good access.

In the end maybe your house cannot be saved. Have an escape plan and don’t leave fleeing the fire, if that is what you decide or are advised to do too late. Have a bag or briefcase with important papers: birth certificates, passports, insurance policies, bankbooks, essential tax records etc. Another pack food and lots of water for people and pets in your household. Have the car ready to immediately drive off with plenty of fuel!
 

HBS Guy

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The impact of wind on probability of destruction cannot be understated. For example, dry ground cover no higher than 2 feet (60cm) tall will produce 9-foot (2.7m) flames in 5-mph (8kph) winds. That same plant will produce 19-foot (5.8m) flames in 20-mph (32kph) winds. And that is on flat ground, meaning that flame length can exceed 75 feet (22.9m) on a 20% slope!


Kent, Douglas; Kent, Douglas. Firescaping (p. 23). Wilderness Press. Kindle Edition.

Obviously, I am quoting from an American book—will convert and add metre equivalents.

Will leave discussion of slopes but if your house is on a slope or ridgetop you have big problems with fire!
 

HBS Guy

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Droughts and freezes if freezing is unusual will cause leaves to die and drop to the ground, kill some branches and allow pests and disease to infest the wounded tree and thrive.

Remove and burn dead wood, prune wounded trees back to sound wood.

In Australia, National Parks are notoriously indifferent to managing their parks so they are full of deadwood and pest species—don’t do that to forest around your home.
 

HBS Guy

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Ignitability is determined by measuring the time it takes a plant to burst into flames when exposed to grass or forest fire temperatures, roughly between 650°F and 1,100°F. A plant’s leaf-moisture content and thickness directly affect the amount of time it takes to ignite. Dried grass is very easy to set on fire, succulents very hard.


Sustainability is defined by the amount of time a plant or landscape can sustain a fire. Sustainability is determined by the amount of dry fuel. Scrub, for instance, quickly exhausts its fuels, whereas conifer forests can sustain a fire for days.

Combustibility is defined by the amount of heat a plant or landscape produces when inflamed. The greater the heat, the greater the thermal radiation and wind—and the greater a fire’s spread. Amount and density of the dry fuels determines the combustibility of a plant or landscape.

Be nice to know the figures for eucalypts and pines!
 

HBS Guy

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I am thinking of a roof with 30cm of soil on top and sedums growing in the soil. No idea of anyone in Tassie does this.

Gutters are a concern—they fill up with leaves and other organic refuse and will burn and bring the fire into the roof space. I am too flipping old (plus other reasons) to get up on ladders!

There was a radically different type of gutter demonstrated on the old “The New Inventors” show—leaves fell over the edge of the roof and fell to the ground while the water ran under the roof and so into the gutter. Very nice solution but I have no idea if this type of gutter is available.

Like this:
https://www.bobvila.com/articles/avoid-gutter-cleaning-forever-after-this-one-improvement/
 
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