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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