Getting ready for bushfire season on Kangaroo Island

The biggest fire on KI in 2018 was at Middle River where a blaze blackened about 370 hectares, destroying fences and outbuildings, narrowly missing homes. Photo: CFS
The biggest fire on KI in 2018 was at Middle River where a blaze blackened about 370 hectares, destroying fences and outbuildings, narrowly missing homes. Photo: CFS

The 2017/2018 Fire Danger Season saw several fires on Kangaroo Island. These affected both residents and holiday home owners.

The biggest fire on KI was at Middle River where a blaze blackened about 370 hectares, destroying fences and outbuildings, narrowly missing homes. 

And the recent devastating bushfires of Australia’s Eastern seaboard are a timely reminder of what can happen when the land dries out, the weather warms up and the fuel loads are high.

Summer is not far away and soon Kangaroo Island will be living with that threat. We know the risk is real, we know the consequences can be both devastating and terrifying, so why risk it?

Many fabulous locations on Kangaroo Island are in bushfire risk locations. Many residents and holiday goers will reside in extreme bushfire risk locations that could be highly susceptible to heavy ember attack and likely flame contact from nearby flammable materials and vegetation in the event of a bushfire. 

The biggest fire on KI in 2018 was at Middle River where a blaze blackened about 370 hectares, destroying fences and outbuildings, narrowly missing homes. Photo: CFS

The biggest fire on KI in 2018 was at Middle River where a blaze blackened about 370 hectares, destroying fences and outbuildings, narrowly missing homes. Photo: CFS

On Kangaroo Island there are often limited options to get to a safer place or last resort refuges as there are very few of them on the Island. It can also take time to get a fire truck manned and moving across the Island to where a fire is burning. 

The ability to defend a property from the effects of a bushfire due to the continuous and dense vegetation in many areas of the Island as well as challenging topography would be very dangerous and possibly life threatening. 

Now is the time to take action and not be complacent. The risk is real, however there are simple steps that anyone in a bushfire risk area can take to help keep themselves, their family and pets safe this summer.  

The first simple steps to being bushfire ready this spring are:

  • Managing and reducing vegetation around your property
  • Cleaning your gutters out
  • Cutting back any overhanging branches
  • Moving flammable items away from your home e.g. woodpile, old boxes, outdoor furniture etc.
  • Sitting down with a cup of tea and doing a “5 Minute Bushfire Plan” off the CFS website

If you think about how a fire travels, you can start to see how it will impact your house. Reducing this opportunity whether it comes from the ground or through the air in the form of embers will help you address some of the critical safety measures you need to take. These include:

  • Block any gaps that may be around or under your house. Make sure doorways, ducts, air-conditioning vents or windows don’t give the opportunity for sparks and embers to blow in and take hold 
  • Installing a sprinkler system to wet down the vegetation and your home to reduce the impact of radiant heat, sparks and embers. (All fittings should be metal as plastic melts)
  • Ensuring access to an independent water supply such as a tank, dam or bore of at least 5000 litres
  • If rainwater resources are low this should be something you’re considering.
  • Installing a petrol/diesel-driven water pump
  • Making sure hoses are long enough to reach around your home
  • Using a stone wall, earth barrier, or fence close to your home as a radiant heat shield
  • Planting lower flammability vegetation, including plants and trees with high water and salt content
  • Developing a well-managed vegetable garden, as it can act as an excellent fuel break.
  • Planting trees and shrubs with space between them so they do not form a continuous canopy 

While many people think they will just leave early on a bad bushfire day, the reality is that sometimes things do not go to plan and you may be forced to stay and defend.

A well prepared home in this situation may save you and your family’s life. Even if you do manage to leave early having a well prepared home and a Bushfire Survival Plan is more likely to keep you safe and give you a house to come back to. 

Complacency kills and not acknowledging your fire risk can be extremely dangerous if not fatal. Being prepared, having a plan and staying informed are fundamental bushfire safety messages. The actions for each are simple to follow and use: 

  • Be prepared
  • Clear around your property.
  • Have an emergency kit ready.
  • Know when to leave and where to go.
  • Have a plan
  • Do your 5 minute plan.
  • Talk about your plan to family/neighbours/friends.
  • Have flexibility in your plan – things might not always go as expected.
  • Stay informed
  • Listen to the weather and know your total fire bans.
  • Subscribe to the CFS Warning email.
  • Check radio, CFS website, social media and news updates.

Spring is the ideal time to undertake these activities and achieving some of them if not most of them will always be a step in the right direction to protecting you, your family and your pets from the danger of fire.

If you do get stuck-in and decide to burn a pile of vegetation as part of your clearing up make sure you check the Environmental Protection Authority guidelines through your local Council first.  

Vanessa Geerts will be on the Island again this year starting on the October long weekend. She will be supporting the community, holiday home owners and business owners to be better prepared for bushfires with several FREE workshop opportunities. The information Vanessa will provide will assist people to better understand what their real risks are and actions they can take to reduce these risks if a nearby bushfire or grassfire should occur. 

There will be:

  • A one-day bushfire preparedness workshop at Island Beach on Sunday, September 30
  • A street and property walk at Island Beach to consider risks in heavily vegetated areas on Monday, October 1 
  • Our Award Winning Firey Women Workshop at Penneshaw on Tuesday and Wednesday, October 2-3 – which includes a very special facilitator who has personally survived two major bushfires
  • And a business focussed workshop at Hanson Bay on Friday, October 5

These workshops are to get the ball rolling on Kangaroo Island and of course Vanessa is always happy to support additional local groups who would like to run something in their own local area.

Anyone can easily register for any workshop opportunities by either calling or emailing Vanessa Geerts on 0428 817 186 or vanessa.geerts@sa.gov.au

Alternatively, further information about how to be “Bushfire Ready” can be found by visiting www.cfs.sa.gov.au

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