Living in or near the Australian bush has many lifestyle benefits. It also brings the need to plan bushfire protection for your property.
Fire is an integral part of the Australian environment and many native plants are adapted to fire. Some recover well after a fire, re-sprouting from buds on their trunks and lignotubers or they are protected during fires by thick bark. Others need fire for seed germination as it opens woody cones or heats seed stored in the ground.
While acknowledging the good things about fire, it is important to plan fire protection zones around your property so that you can enjoy living near the bush without feeling threatened by fire.
Planning begins with identifying fire threats on your land, taking into account slope, aspect, the availability of water and the build-up of fine fuels (dry mulch, fallen twigs, bark and leaves). On the whole, the steeper the slope, the faster a fire moves, so houses on steeper land need wider buffer zones especially to the north-west, west and south-west.
While fire buffer zones are traditionally cleared with sweeping lawns and sprinkler systems, there are also many fire-retardant trees and shrubs that can be included in garden and farm plantings. They are generally plants with high salt or moisture content and low volatile oil content in their leaves.
All plants will burn if the fire is hot enough but fire-retardant plants are less likely to carry fire. In windbreaks and garden plantings, they contribute to slowing fire by reducing wind speed, burning less readily and preventing the spread of embers. If local species are used, plantings also provide wildlife habitat, especially when planted to link areas of natural vegetation.
For more information about protecting your home and land in a bushfire, contact your local branch of the Rural Fire Service or local council.