FLAWS IN BUSHFIRE BUILDING REGULATIONS:

A planning expert has warned that houses in  bushfire-ravaged towns should not be rebuilt   http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-06/bushfire-ravaged-towns-should-not-be-rebuilt-expert-warns/8166178

Anyone planning to build, rebuild, retrofit or repair home to be bushfire resistant needs to be aware of the failings in the relevant building regulations (Australian Standard Construction of Buildings in Bushfire Prone Areas).

They  cannot be relied upon to provide bushfire safety. 
These are some of their extraordinary omissions and inclusions:

  • Ignore the roof/ceiling space. Of the three core vulnerable areas: subfloor, windows and roof space, this is the most dangerous aspect: because it is unseen.
  • Stipulate brick for the worst danger categories. Look at all the brick houses destroyed during bushfires.
  • Allow brick veneer. Air space between external and internal wall linings encourages upward spread of fire
  • Stipulate that timber cladding must be ‘fire retardant’-which is pointless: the danger to houses only comes from the outreach of flames if vegetation is allowed to grow close.
  • Stipulate metal frames, known to buckle under intense heat.
  • Allow polyurethane for insulation -a killer that gives off cyanide gas within 30 seconds of smouldering
  • Ignore the type of internal wall linings –  though many give off toxic gases when burning
  • Ignore the type of water tank – plastic tanks melt in intense bushfires.
  • Ignore the type of farm fencing –  metal picket posts survive and will keep the wiring upright.
  • Designate a site category the ‘flame zone’ – to allow home building anywhere near a ‘flame zone’, is homicidal.

The three core home destroyers
1. Embers, embers, embers. Not the fabled ‘sweeping flames’.
2. Flames – rarely, depends on your vegetation management.
3. Radiant heat – if ever, from closely adjacent building.

 The three core areas for ember protection
1 Roof/ceiling space
2. Windows
3. Subfloor

The three core areas for flame protection
1.Lessen nearby vegetation density and flammability
2. Increase distance between cladding and flammable vegetation.
3. Maintain spaced plants, fire resistant plants, cleared ground beneath plants.

The three core construction protections for houses
1. Clear roof space, insulate, ember-proofing potential entry points.
2. Cover windows with shutters or metal flywire
3. Cover subfloor gaps with metal flywire

To each core point add:
Thorough knowledge of what to do, when to do it, and why.

ESSENTIAL BUSHFIRE SAFETY TIPS is the ONLY publication for the householder that details all up-to-date known and proven factors of  involved in personal and home danger and safety  during bushfires and provides options for reacting to them. Every word has been checked and rechecked by senior CSIRO bushfire scientists. It is endorsed by the Country Fire Authority, Victoria:‘Truly an outstanding achievement and a book that certainly could help save lives within the community.: 
Click here http://www.publish.csiro.au/pid/6969.htm

Posted in building, Building regulations, Bushfire safety, bushfires, Forrest fires, Grassfires, retrofitting houses, Uncategorized, Wye River | Leave a comment

Animals need not die in grassfires

 


Many animals were burned to death in grassfires last summer because their owners left them in inescapable paddocks with fence-to-fence long grass. Others were saved by owners’ humane foresight in preparing accessible bare ground refuge areas.

ANIMALS Deer endangered

A few minutes after this picture was taken, these beautiful animals perished in the fire. February 2014, Central Victoria.

Protective measures can make a huge difference to animal safety during grass and bushfire. The simplest is to plough 6m bare earth strips on each side of  fence lines. This should be done as grass is curing and regularly maintained. It will stop the run of a grassfire.

Embers from a forest fire can, of course, land in a paddock occupied by stock and ignite grass their side of the fence. Counteract this danger with prepared, easily accessible bare refuge paddocks. These have saved hundreds of head of stock from even the worst bushfires.

stock Horse in safe refuge paddock

This horse in its bare-ground refuge paddock is well protected from a grass fire. (Photo courtesy of CFA, Victoria.)

ANIMALS fire approaching

These geese and goats may be affected by heat and smoke, but will not be incinerated by fire.

ANIMALS  stock Dead cow unharmed cows

This unfortunate cow was not provided with a bare ground refuge. The contented cows in the background were. Photo (c) Katherine E. Seppings from The Complete Bushfire Safety Book.

STOCK REFUGE SUGGESTIONS
Ploughed land.
Well eaten-out paddock.
Paddock planted with a green summer crop.
Concrete milking sheds or stables with roof sprinklers.
A nearby green, sheltered, open space such as golf links or recreation grounds.
Heavily grazed lanes, not tree-lined.
Dams with soil scooped up on at least two windward sides.
Pet boarding places, wildlife sanctuaries & horse studs need roof and ground sprinklers.

STOCK REFUGES NEED
Bare earth.
Enough space to hold all stock.
Water in heat-resistant containers.

STOCK REFUGES ARE IMPROVED WITH
Fuelbreaks and windbreaks (see below).

STOCK REFUGE LAYOUT
On leeward side of the property.
In the inner zone of protection.

STOCK REFUGE TIPS
Clear straw and other flammables from milking sheds or stables.
Clear flammable vegetation from earth mounds and trench rims.
Fit property with internal gates that can be opened for animals to move to safety.
Get stock used to moving into refuge.
Never wait until embers are falling to release stock or move them into their refuge: this has caused many deaths.

FUELBREAKS (FIREBREAKS)
Work best for grass fires, which don’t throw embers as far as forest fires.
Fuelbreaks at least 6 m wide on outer sides of vegetated fence lines (see below).
Hedges as wind/firebreak/radiation shields on at least two windward sides.
Stone fences around paddocks can stop crop and grass fires.

WINDBREAKS
Consist of rows of closely grown tall trees.
Modify the strength of wind blowing towards protected objects.
By forcing an approaching wind to rise, can protect an area well beyond it.
Can protect buildings and stock.
Conserve soil moisture near them.

WINDBREAKS TO PROTECT BUILDINGS AND STOCK REFUGE
Dense low-flammability hedges such as lilly-pilly or photinia.

WINDBREAKS TO PROTECT CROPS & GRAZING STOCK
Permeable hedges such as sticky or silver wattle, with smaller plants beneath. (See The Complete Bushfire Safety Book for extensive list of fire resistant plants.)

REFUGES FOR FOWL PENS & AVIARIES
Sprinklers for roof and walls.
Low wall 2–3 m to fireward of pen to shield three sides.
Cover small aviary with pure wool blanket or strong foil if embers fall.
Protect with European deciduous trees.

REFUGES FOR STABLES & MILKING SHEDS
Brick, stone or concrete cladding.
Roof and perimeter sprinklers.
Cleared 10 m around.
Remove straw, soak timber doors, fill water troughs.

REFUGES FOR PADDOCKED HORSES
Bare earth beneath a large, spreading, low-flammability shade tree.
20–30 m bare if trees in the paddock; 10 m bare if only grass in the paddock.
Water trough, filled daily.
Radiant heat shield: wall or hedge, 4 m long and at least as tall as the horse.
SEE ARCHIVED POST for horses 2015-11-20.

FOR FULL DETAILS on animal protection see definitive The Complete Bushfire Safety Book
or the CFA endorsed ready reference Essential Bushfire Safety Tips 

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Bushfire safe gardens – points to ponder

CORE DANGER/SAFETY FACTS OF FIRES IN VEGETATION:
• the more dense the vegetation, the more intense the fire.
• the more intense the fire, the more radiant heat, flames & ember shower
• the more radiant heat, flames & embers, the more danger to lives and homes
z Shrubs grown on garage -2

A dangerously cluttered garden

CORE ACTION TO TAKE TO INCREASE SAFETY
THE MORE RADIANT HEAT, FLAMES &EMBER SHOWER
• Have paths between house walls and plants.
• Thin out clutter. Space garden beds.
• Replace flammable mulch with granitic sand, pebbles, or road-metal crushings.
• Populate garden beds with low flammability succulents and vegetables.
• Replace rough barked eucalypts with smooth-barked trees.
• Replace highly flammable native plants with fire resistant species e.g. European deciduous
• Plant dense canopied European deciduous trees near, and on the firewind side of buildings. Such trees absorb sparks and embers and so can protect roof and walls.

Daylesford-Stony Creek Rd -parklike -Small

A well-prepared property, with uncluttered grounds. (Picture © Katherine E. Seppings.)

If you think that replacing ‘native’ gardens with introduced species spoils a fashionable environmental concept – think about whether it is better to spoil that than to spoil lives and townships by having a fire-welcoming garden.

THINK ABOUT THIS
We are an introduced species.
• Our livestock, our pets are introduced species.
• Roads and cars are foreign to the environment.
• Our houses are foreign to the environment.
• Our lifestyle is not ‘native’.
• Why ought their gardens be ‘native’?
• A ‘native’ garden does not keep your property ‘natural’. It keeps it endangered.
• Thoughtful planning, preparation, some changes, and regular maintenance is protective.

REMEMBER
• Bushfire can’t burn what you’ve cut back.
• It can’t burn bare earth or gravel paths.
• It can’t ignite trees if there’s nothing growing under them.
• Fire resistant plants can help keep bushfire at bay.
(The Complete Bushfire Safety Book has an eight-page list – some of which are ‘native’)

Posted in Bushfire safety | 1 Comment

BOOK LAUNCH

Great launch today of my poetry chapbook, Summoning the Whirlwind (MPU).

book-launch-joan-signing

Photo by Wilma Brantner

Reviews:
“Joan Katherine Webster’s poems are chock-full of thingyness; of a tangible Now within time; of commonplace objects rubbed to a sacred gloss. If she summons the whirlwind, it will try to whirl away the pleasing solids of our daily lives, for she has lived with them, knows them and touches them. Her poetry sparkles for us all.” – Chris Wallace-Crabbe.

cover-summoning-the-whirlwind-front

Cover photo  www.katherineseppings.com

Buy Now Button

“Here is a poet in love with language, absorbed in the whirlwind of “the mystic skill of rhyme”, rhythms and subtle imagery, the quick-quick tick / against slow tock, casting her hypnotic spell over hills, street crowds, music and seascapes, ‘The Woman Alone on the Beach’ counting the waves crawl, crabwise. Be prepared to be equally absorbed.” – Rob Wallis.

“When I read Summoning the Whirlwind, I was reminded of the words of U.S. author/radio broadcaster, Garrison Keilor who said: “A poem is not a puzzle that the dutiful reader is obliged to solve … It should render the gravity, the grace, and the beauty of the ordinary world, thereby lending courage to strangers.” Joan Katherine Webster’s work is accessible to all and the intellectual and emotional content of the material produced by her creates an affinity of being with readers who never expected that anyone else shared their feelings or perceptions. Thus, she lends courage to strangers.” – Noel Tennison.

midland-express-2016-11-15

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Book launch

My poetry chapbook, Summoning the Whirlwind will be launched at the Castlemaine Library Foyer, Mechanics Lane, Castlemaine, November 17, 4-6pm. It is published by the Melbourne Poets Union.

Advance reviews:
Joan Katherine Webster’s poems are chock-full of thingyness; of a tangible Now within time; of commonplace objects rubbed to a sacred gloss. If she summons the whirlwind, it will try to whirl away the pleasing solids of our daily lives, for she has lived with them, knows them and touches them. Her poetry sparkles for us all. – Chris Walace-Crabbe

Here is a poet in love with language, absorbed in the whirlwind of “the mystic skill of rhyme”, rhythms and subtle imagery, “the quick-quick tick / against slow tock”, casting her hypnotic spell over hills, street crowds, music and seascapes, “The Woman Alone on the Beach” “counting the waves crawl, crabwise”. Be prepared to be equally absorbed. – Rob Wallis.

When I read Summoning the Whirlwind, I was reminded of the words of US author/radio broadcaster, Garrison Keilor who said: “A poem is not a puzzle that the dutiful reader is obliged to solve … . It should render the gravity, the grace, and the beauty of the ordinary world, thereby lending courage to strangers.” Joan Katherine Webster’s work is accessible to all and the intellectual and emotional content of the material produced by her creates an affinity of being with readers who never expected that anyone else shared their feelings or perceptions. Thus, she lends courage to strangers. – Noel Tennison.

launch-map-cropped

See more at
https://www.facebook.com/events/1827544237517849/

 

My Poem Interregnum has just been announced runner-up in the Castlemaine Poetry Prize, 2016. I wrote it on a windless day that sent me on a train of thought about the life of the climate, the environment and the earth.
c-maine-poetry-prize-runnerup-2016


Interregnum
Nothing.
Nothing moves.
No leaf, no blade of grass
No feather-flicker differentiates the comatose from bliss.

The slipstream of cars falls behind, faints on the bitumen;
a dog-shaped displacement of air follows its mass
birds leave lines of semaphored intent indented in their wake
a butterfly weaves lightning scars on the invisible.
Click to read on Interregnum

Posted in Poetry, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Poetry book launch

 

book-cover-pic-from-fb

My poetry has been broadcast, performed and published in a variety of media since 1954 and won several awards, but Summoning the Whirlwind is my first published collection.

Great advance reviews:
Joan Katherine Webster’s poems are chock-full of … commonplace objects rubbed to a sacred gloss. …Her poetry sparkles for us all.’ Chris Wallace-Crabbe

Here is a poet in love with language… “the mystic skill of rhyme”, rhythms and subtle imagery… Be prepared to be equally absorbed.’ Rob Wallis .

‘…the intellectual and emotional content of the material …creates an affinity of being with readers … Thus, she lends courage to strangers.’ Noel Tennison.

The chapbook is published by the Melbourne Poets Union www.melbournepoetsunion.com .

I’d love to see you at the launch by actor John Flaus,  November 17th, 4-6 pm at the Library Foyer, Mechanics Lane, Castlemaine.

launch-map-cropped

See more at https://www.facebook.com/events/1827544237517849/

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Official bushfire safety advice admitted incorrect

The Country Fire Authority Victoria has admitted that some bushfire safety advice in its publications is incorrect. The Authority has thanked me for bringing these errors to its attention, and undertaken to appoint staff to correct them.

Chief Officer Steve Warrington has informed me:
We acknowledge and are rectifying some of the inconsistencies … We will hire a casual resource to work through these inconsistencies.

This is not the first time I have pointed out these errors, which misinform the public about safe action in certain bushfire situations – but it is the first time such a response has been given, and so promptly. A month ago I  pointed out aspects of misleading advice and outright errors  regarding the inadequacies of house construction; the speed of grassfires; protection provided by cars; and the matter of bushfire deaths close to homes. Below is that incorrect advice and my reasons for refuting it:

HOUSE CONSTRUCTION
Fallacy
 ‘Homes are not designed or constructed to withstand fires in these conditions’ http://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/warnings-restrictions/about-fire-danger-ratings/
Contradiction
The above statement is contradicted by CFA’s own advice elsewhere that: ‘If you cannot leave the area, consider shelter options close by. These may include a well-prepared home (yours or a neighbour) that you can actively defend’ http://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/plan-prepare/leave-and-live/
Fact
If this statement is correct, how was it that researchers found that 2/3 of houses in the 2009 fire-grounds did ‘withstand’ even Code Red conditions in 2009 (2010-04-27 Royal Commission into the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Transcript of proceedings -Professor John Handmer Royal Commission Transcript_VBRC_Day_139_27-Apr-2010.PDF.)
And that 80% of actively defended homes – and even 52% of homes not actively defended – survived? (http://www.bushfirecrc.com/sites/default/files/managed/resource/issues_in_community_bushfire_safety-analyses_of_interviews_conducted_by_the_2009_victorian_bushfires_0.pdf)
Construction is an important, but not the main, aspect of house survival.

GRASSFIRES
Fallacy
‘In open grassland (fire) speed in increases up to 60 km per hour.’ http://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/plan-prepare/am-I-at-risk/
Fact
The fastest known grassfire flame front is 25 kph. CFA ‘Fire Ready’’s figure of 60 kpk is a misinterpretation of Dr Kevin Tolhurst’s statement on the speed of  short-lived pulses. His modeling indicated that fires can PULSE up to 60 kilometres per hour in open grassland in extreme circumstances.

 THE CAR AS PROTECTION
Fallacy
‘A car is unlikely to protect you from the radiant heat of a grassfire.’ http://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/plan-prepare/grassfires-rural/Grassfires_fact_sheet.pdf
http://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/plan-prepare/am-I-at-risk/
Contradiction
‘If you’re caught in a car, don’t get out and run.’ (Am I at Risk – What to do, point 3.)
‘Sheltering in a car is extremely dangerous.’
Fact
Bushfire scientist Phil Cheney PSM, author of ‘Grassfires’ (CSIRO) affirms that this message is wrong.
A car offers considerable protection from radiant heat from both grass and forest fires.  Even the windows reduce the radiant heat flux by about one third and the transmitted flux can be avoided by getting down in the car or screening behind clothing, blankets etc.  The car also offers almost complete protection from convected heat which makes up about 75% of the total flux from a fire.  Not all of this heat is transmitted upward away from the ground, particularly in strong winds, and in some situations presents a major issue for survival.’

SUMMER FIRE ‘LEAVE AND LIVE’ VIDEO
Fallacy – misleading
‘Four out of five bushfire deaths happen close to home’ http://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/plan-prepare/leave-and-live/
Fact
No post-2009 Black Saturday research by bushfire scientists cited any figure of 80%  (‘4 out of 5’) of deaths ‘close to home’. The nearest correct research statistic –  69% – refers to sheltering deaths, an where it makes the point that ‘at least half of these had been sheltering  inappropriately’.
An 80% (4 out of 5)  figure refers to success of home defenders: the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Research Task Force stated that ‘80% of Black Saturday home defenders succeeded.’
No research implies that being ‘close to home’ is a cause of death during bushfire.
In fact, post-2009 Black Saturday research cites no cases of  death of any able-bodied, thoroughly prepared, planned and practiced person who had followed recommended procedure.

SURVIVAL OPTIONS
Fallacy
‘If sheltering in a building during a bushfire, make sure you have two points of exit – including one direct exit to the outside of the house – in every room used as a shelter.’ ‘Most bathrooms are unsuitable to shelter in. They typically have only one door which can make escape impossible if that exit is blocked by flames and heat.’
‘Most bathrooms also have frosted windows that do not let you see outside.’
http://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/plan-prepare/your-guide-to-survival/
Fact
These are NOT the reasons it is unsafe to shelter in a bathroom.
The reason it is unsafe to shelter in a bathroom is that unknown to the shelterers, embers could have ignited within the ceiling space, in which fire will gradually build up to flash-over point when fiery ceiling, rafters and roof will fall in upon them. Even before this happens the shelterers may have died from toxic fumes given off by smouldering furnishings or wall lining materials.
Passive shelterers should stay by an exit door, with protective clothing

The CFA is to be commended for taking notice of the criticism, and in such an equable manner as it did. I was very chuffed that Chief Officer Steve Warrington chose to pass this on to me:
I would like to share with you a quote I received from my staff when responding to your issues raised:
“It is of benefit to CFA that a person such as Joan provides constant scrutiny of our messaging, as she has over at least a decade, and we value her input…” ‘.

 

Posted in Bushfire safety | 3 Comments