Four workers from overseas died trying to save a horse from the recent bushfires north of Esperance, on WA’s south coast. They were towing the horse in a horsefloat.
ATTEMPTS TO HASTILY EVACUATE HORSES by foot or by float when fire is in the area have always been more likely to end in disaster and death than in escape: for owners and horses. Stock owners should put as much early planning and preparation into bushfire protection for their animals and for themselves and their homes.
REFUGES FOR HORSES
* Stables of brick, stone or concrete. These need roof and perimeter sprinklers, with vegetation and debris cleared all round for 10 m.
WHEN newcomers to the Maryborough district learned that a major grass fire was in their area, on 14 January 1985, they put their horses in an incomplete double-brick stable complex. They removed straw from the floor, thoroughly soaked the timber doors, filled the horses’ water trough and left them. After the fire had passed, the contented horses appeared as if nothing had happened.
* A refuge paddock. This needs a bare earth area beneath a large, spreading, fire resistant shade tree (20–30 m bare if there are other trees in the paddock; 10 m bare if only grass in the paddock), with a water trough, filled daily. The earth of the refuge area needs to be kept bare all summer – no grass or other vegetation on it at all. Horses usually have the ‘horse-sense’ to go to the bare area if the grass of its paddock ignites.
EXTRA PROTECTION can be given with a radiant heat shield wall of stone, concrete or even galvanised iron or fire-resistant hedge on the fireward side of the bare area. A shield approximately 4 m long and at least as high as the horse will shelter the horse’s body from the radiant heat of any approaching flames.
ON A DAY OF BUSHFIRE THREAT, remove metal shoes, rugs (unless specially designed protective rugs), fly-veils and halters(metal buckles burn flesh and plastic melt), clear the straw from stable floors, soak timber doors and fill water troughs.
FOR FULL DETAILS on care for animals before and after bushfire, see The Complete Bushfire Safety Book www.randomhouse.com.au/books/joan-webster/the-complete-bushfire-safety-book-9781740510349.aspx
and its CFA endorsed ready reference Essential Bushfire Safety Tips http://www.publish.csiro.au/pid/6969.htm