Now’s the time to check your home’s bushfire risk score out of 10

Australia’s bushfire seasons are arriving earlier and becoming more dangerous. With this in mind, now's a good time to check the potential bushfire risk of your home. What's your home's score out of 10?

Residz Team 4 min read

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Although more Australians die in residential fires on average each year than by all natural hazards combined, nobody should be complacent about the threat of bushfire.

Australia’s bushfire seasons are arriving earlier and becoming more dangerous. Research indicates these destructive seasons are going to get worse in future. Yet more and more families are preferring a “tree change” and buying in affordable regional Australia near bushland, on acreage, and amongst coastal scrub.

It’s a potent combo, so let’s look at the risks of bushfire for summer 22/23, and how you can check your home’s potential bushfire risk score out of 10.

Wet, wet, wet

With the combined effects of La Niña and southward winds over the Southern Ocean, much of eastern Australia was hit by record rainfall for extended periods in early and mid 2022. The Bureau of Meteorology’s La Niña WATCH claims there is around a 50% chance of La Niña forming later in 2022.

“This is approximately double the normal likelihood,” says the Bureau. “La Niña events increase the chance of above average winter–spring rainfall across much of northern and eastern Australia.”

Four of the seven models surveyed by the Bureau suggest La Niña could return in spring.

Rain can mean more growth

Bushfires don't ignite as successfully in the wet. However, the Bureau of Meteorology points out on its website that wet weather can encourage vegetation growth and that increases the amount of fuel available (grass, leaf litter, twigs, bark).

Once the weather turns hot, the humidity is low and there's been little recent rain, this vegetation dries out and becomes more flammable. If La Niña stays away, there’s more of a chance of a dry summer.

Climate change means bushfire season is earlier

Overall, the Bureau of Meteorology says it’s observed how climate change is influencing the frequency and severity of dangerous bushfire conditions in Australia.

For southern and eastern Australia there are often more extreme conditions during summer, as well as an earlier start to the bushfire season with dangerous weather conditions occurring significantly earlier in spring than they used to.

Monsoonal rains increases fire danger in north

Winter and spring is the time for significant fire activity in northern Australia, says the bureau, and increases in monsoonal rainfall have increased fuel growth in recent decades making it a key factor influencing fire danger in that region.

What homeowners or home buyers should be doing now

For homeowners or those looking keen to buy a home, this is a call to action to start becoming bushfire-aware and bushfire-ready.

First step is to assess the potential fire risk of the home you own, rent, or wish to buy by typing the street address into Residz.com.

Residz has calculated the individual potential fire risk of all 12 million homes in Australia and it is presented as an easy-to-understand score out of 10.

Where’s your home situated?

Families seeking affordable homes have been buying up homes near the coast, near bushland, and on rural acreage. The NSW Rural Fire Service points out the risks of these choices. Homes that are near bush are at risk as bush fires can be hot and intense and burning embers can be thrown onto your home.

Homes in areas that meet grasslands or coastal scrubland can also be at risk, it says, as both grass and coastal scrub fires start fast and spread quickly. And, if you’re on a hill, the RFS says you’re also at risk, as fire travels uphill quickly. For every 10 degrees of slope, the fire can double in speed.

Seek advice on reducing your bushfire risk

For homes that have a potential risk of 5 out of 10 or greater, it is especially important to seek advice soon on how to mitigate the risk of house loss or loss of life during a bushfire.

Recommended actions:

  • Make a firebreak around the home by reducing or removing fuel sources around the home, such as vegetation, wood piles, and flammable objects. It is recommended to clear weeds, bush, and overgrowth within 60 metres of the home.
  • In the bushfire season, regularly mow your grass.
  • Put a Static Water Supply (SWS) sign on your property entrance to make it easier for emergency services to find water.
  • Store fuel away from the house.
  • If you’re on a property, remove overhanging branches away from power lines.
  • Increasing the fire fighting equipment around the home, including sturdy and long hoses with spray nozzles. Consider purchasing a high pressure water pump.
  • Making an emergency plan at www.myfireplan.com.au.
  • NSW Rural Fire Service strongly recommend everyone in your home has a conversation about exactly what they’ll do in a bushfire. It has put together a discussion guide to help.

Summary

Losing your house to a bushfire is devastating. My childhood home was completely destroyed by fire so I have a deep and personal understanding of the heartache involved when animals, home, and possessions are lost this way. The loss of human life would be unbearably sad.

So, take bushfire safety seriously. It is largely the sparks and embers emitted from the fires that cause houses to catch fire, so do all that you can to reduce the risk of this happening to your home by clearing gutters, keeping vegetation and debris away from your home, and becoming educated about what more you can do in your area.

Photo by Lithgowlights