Bushfire building regulations’ failings

ABC News picture:
Some high BAL-rated homes burnt down in Wye River during the 2015 Christmas Day fires.

Nine months after the 2015 Christmas day bushfire destroyed 116 houses in South-west Victoria’s seaside Wye River and Separation Creek, no homes have been rebuilt. Residents doubt they will be able to afford the $100,000 added to the cost by newly imposed higher Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) requirements.

BAL levels demand the use of certain building materials, claimed officially to give houses the best chance of surviving bushfire. THEY CANNOT, HOWEVER, BE RELIED UPON TO PROVIDE BUSHFIRE SAFETY. The regulations have some extraordinary omissions and inclusions:

  • They 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.
  • They stipulate brick for the worst danger categories,
    – Look at all the brick houses destroyed on Black Saturday.
  • They allow brick veneer
    – Air space between external and internal wall linings encourages upward spread of fire
  • They 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.
  • They stipulate metal frames, known to buckle under intense heat.
  • They allow polyurethane for insulation.
    – This killer gives off cyanide gas within 30 seconds of smouldering.
  • They ignore the type of internal wall linings.
    –     though many give off toxic gases when burning.
  • They ignore the type of water tank.
    – Plastic tanks melt in intense bushfires.
  • They ignore the type of farm fencing.
    – Metal picket posts survive and will keep the wiring upright.
  • They designate a site category as the ‘flame zone’.
    To allow home building anywhere near a ‘flame zone’, is homicidal.

HOUSE CONSTRUCTION FEATURES PLAY A PART, BUT NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT, IN ‘WITHSTANDING’ BUSHFIRES. The core aspect of house and personal survival is a thorough knowledge of the pros and cons of planning, preparation and safe reaction.

Neither brick cladding nor metal frames save houses. (Pictures Katherine E. Seppings.)

TO HAVE A BUSHFIRE RESISTANT HOUSE, YOU NEED to first concentrate on lessening nearby vegetation density and flammability (which will reduce ember throw and flame reach) and then on ember proofing. The core areas for ember protection are subfloor, windows and roof/ceiling space. The core aspect of flame protection is cladding distance from flammable vegetation.

FULL DETAILS in the CFA endorsed ‘Essential Bushfire Safety Tips’ http://www.publish.csiro.au/pid/6969.htm

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An inexpensive way to ember-proof


Bushfire threatens house -Orange NSW

A relatively easy and inexpensive way to ember-proof your home in preparation for the bushfire season is this new, Australian Standards approved product FIRESHIELD FIRE RENDER
FIRESHIELD FIRE RENDER, installed over existing cladding, it protects homes from both ember entry and flame impact. With BAL-FZ accreditation, it can be both applied to new buildings and retrofitted.
As a bonus, its insulating properties are claimed to keep the home up to 70 – 80% cooler in summer and warmer in winter
The small, Aussie-battler manufacturers say it is the only render tested officially in a furnace that simulated flame zone conditions reaching temperatures of 1100-1200 degrees. They cite Test Report WFRA F91864 to confirm Fireshield’s fire resistance level of -/240/180 in accordance with AS1530.4-1997.
See www.fireshieldsystems.com.au 

Copy of Fireshield

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Your home or your life – not automatic alternatives.

bushfire cloud close

Recent newsaper quote from bushfire evacuee: ‘It was time to get out, it’s not worth your life”

THE SAVING OF YOUR HOME OR YOUR LIFE IS NOT AN AUTOMATIC ALTERNATIVE. The fear that protecting your home necessarily endangers you is not supported by facts. Research over 100 YEARS has shown that most people who die during a bushfire have not followed safe procedure – indeed, that many have acted foolishly.

ALMOST ALL WEAR FLIMSY CLOTHING that left them exposed to deadly radiant heat.
APPROXIMATELY 1/2 SHELTER DANGEROUSLY places such as sheds, outhouses, and in inner rooms  and almost one third in bathrooms.
AT LEAST 80% of defended homes ARE SAFELY SAVED.

BUSHFIRE DEATHS ARE RARE for any able-bodied, thoroughly prepared, planned and practiced persons who have followed recommended procedure whether defending or sheltering.

Three core dangers to your safety
Radiant heat
Smoke inhalation
Three core contributions to your safety:
Protective clothing and a strong pure wool blanket.
Drinking water.
Nose mask
Three core aspects of safe home defence:
Protective clothing
Dousing embers fallen near the house, not fighting outer flames.
Three core aspects of safe shelter:
Staying by a door that  exits to outside with drinking water.
Exiting in protective clothing or wrapped in a pure wool blanket.
Exiting to a sheltered or already burnt or area.
Be aware that vacated houses are the most vulnerable to destruction.
See bushfire scientist’s research paper
See THE COMPLETE BUSHFIRE SAFETY BOOK– the in-depth, authority-backed, bushfire safety information: ‘The most authoritative publication of its type available’.
See ESSENTIAL BUSHFIRE SAFETY TIPS – The endorsed ready reference: ‘An outstanding achievement …that could certainly help save lives within the community’.

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Save Central Victoria’s Red Cross Patient Transport Service

Red Cross car
The 17   drivers who volunteer their time to drive patients to essential medical appointments in Central Victoria. They will lose the volunteering they love; vulnerable ill people will lose a vital, life-saving service.

Red Cross Victoria has ordered the withdrawal of the Red Cross Patient Transport Service from the Shires of Mt Alexander and Macedon Ranges from June 17. The volunteer-driven car, based in Castlemaine, takes people with no other way of getting to their medical appointments, to vital appointments such as, diagnostic assessments, MRI scans, oncology, radio- and chemo-therapy, specialist treatment in Melbourne and Bendigo.  Loss of the Red Cross car will leave many people in life-threatening situations, and others in great distress.

We therefore ask the Victorian Government, in keeping with the Labour Party’s election   campaign mantra: ‘health and education’, to fund the continuation of the Castlemaine Red Cross Patient Transport Service.

WE HAVE WON! Castlemaine region may lose its actual Red Cross Patient Transport car, but WILL HAVE THE SAME SERVICE. Bendigo West MP Maree Edwards brought the matter up in Victorian State Parliament yesterday. The service will be saved by State Government funding, and run through the local hospital, Castlemaine Health. This is a long-term arrangement. The government will fund a vehicle and convenor, with Castlemaine Health using the current local co-ordinator and same local drivers, thus providing the same friendly and efficient service.

A big Thank You to all who signed the petition and added comments. This gave the cause a great impetus and authenticity.

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The trials of publishing folk history


1 FRUITS book cover






Fruits of Their Labours – a long time coming to fruition.

Standard Newspapers Ltd, of which the Doncaster Mirror was a part, had planned in 1984 to publish the Byways of Local History stories in a book, titled Doncaster Folk Tales. Preliminary editing of the 180-page text had been completed and preparations had proceeded to the proofs of  80  ‘tales’ and 75  illustration/photos, when Standard Newspapers folded, taken over by the Melbourne Herald, and the project fell through. This was 1986.

From 1993-96 I unsuccessfully submitted the manuscript to publishers and tried for grants. To preserve the research, I collated the entire collection of my local historical writings, had them bound, and donated this to the Whitehorse Manningham Regional Library Corporation. The Australiana Librarian acknowledged it to: ‘… represent an outstanding chronicle of the community life of Doncaster-Templestowe from first settlement to the present’.

In 2008 Manningham Council enthusiastically agreed to support sponsorship of my application for a grant from the Local History Grants Program for the publication of Doncaster Folk Tales. Councillors changed, and this, too, fell through.

Almost 30 years since its first preparation, I decided to start again, rework the whole collection and publish it myself. So in 2012, Doncaster Folk Tales became the 350 page Fruits of Their Labours: Orchard Empire to Urban Affluence: A Folk History of Doncaster.


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New protection from embers and flames

If you are needing to repair or rebuild after bushfires, a new, Australian Standards approved product could be very helpful.Copy of Fireshield

Fireshield Fire Render, newly granted BAL-FZ accreditation, is designed to protect homes from both ember entry and flame impact. As a bonus, its insulating properties are claimed to keep the home up to 70 – 80% cooler in  summer and warmer in winter.

It can be applied to new buildings and retrofitted.

The small, Aussie-battler manufacturers  say it is the only render tested officially in a furnace that simulated flame zone conditions reaching temperatures of 1100-1200 degrees.  They cite Test Report WFRA F91864 to confirm Fireshield’s fire resistance  level of -/240/180 in accordance with AS1530.4-1997.

Seems to me a very good bushfire safety investment.

For details, see  www.fireshieldsystems.com.au, contact Noel at 0417 369 659, email info@fireshieldsystems.com.au, or click on



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Stock safety during bushfire



ANIMALS stock Dead cow unharmed cows

The fortunate contented cows in the background were provided with a bare earth stock refuge. Photo (c) Katherine E. Seppings from The Complete Bushfire Safety Book

Some simple protective measures can make a huge difference to stock safety during bushfire. The simplest is to plough 6m bare earth strips on each side of  fence lines. This can be done in a lull between fire danger days. It will stop the run of a grassfire. Embers from a forest fire can, of course, land on a paddock occupied by stock and ignite grass their side of the fence. Prepared refuge paddocks have saved hundreds of head of stock from being overtaken by fire. Never leave any animal tethered or caged outside during bushfire.

stock Sheep in dangerous paddock

These sheep could be protected from a running grassfire by ploughing bare earth fireebreaks each side of fence lines.

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.

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

Fuelbreaks and windbreaks (see below).

On leeward side of the property.
In the inner zone of protection.

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.

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.

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.

Dense low-flammability hedges such as lilly-pilly or photinia.

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.)

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.

Brick, stone or concrete cladding.
Roof and perimeter sprinklers.
Cleared 10 m around.
Remove straw, soak timber doors, fill water troughs.

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 

ANIMALS Deer endangered

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


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