Do you know today’s Bush Fire Danger Rating in your area?

Door: Jonathan Verschuuren (TLS) | Categorie: Australia, Ecosystems

This question jumped out at me from a large roadside billboard while I was heading down to the south coast of New South Wales for a weekend break. Hmm… Come to think of it, just a few kilometers back I had seen a sign, divided into a number of colored areas ranging from green to red, with an arrow at the bottom. Now which area had that arrow been pointing to?

Australia has recently experienced a severe drought, which lasted for many years and resulted in a huge number of major bush fires. The most notorious of these were the Black Saturday Bush Fires in Victoria, on 6 February 2009, which resulted in 173 deaths. Bush fires are increasing in number and intensity, as a result of climate change. For this reason, a comprehensive adaptation program has been developed to help people be better prepared for these fires. Most people know very well whether they live in a bush fire prone area. In such areas, there are many ways of finding out the day’s Bush Fire Danger Rating (varying from Low-Moderate to Extreme or even Catastrophic). There is a Bush Fire Household Assessment Tool that you can use in the event of a fire to identify the best course of action to take in your own personal situation: Leave Early, or Stay and Defend. There is a Bush Fire Survival Plan giving details of what you need to do to better protect your house against a fire. The Plan comes complete with a “prepare your property” checklist.

A comprehensive government program recently completed in NSW concluded that all schools should be made fire safe through the implementation of a series of measures, depending on the situation on the ground. This might involve clearing vegetation from around buildings, creating or improving escape routes, and making buildings more fire resistant. In one case, where the risk remained high despite these measures, a helicopter was also purchased to evacuate the children in the event of a fire. The fire services also carry out regular hazard reduction burns to reduce the intensity of “genuine” bush fires.

Australia is trying to live with bush fires. In the Netherlands, a period of drought like the present one is exceptional, and measures such as these are hopefully unnecessary.

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