WITH fires blazing in winter and rain nowhere in sight, the Clarence Valley is in for a long fire season, and residents need to know what to do should their home be under threat. 

Halfway Creek and Kungala residents told The Daily Examiner last week they felt left in the dark, with the Rural Fire Service Fires Near Me app not regularly updated with clear directions.

RFS media manager Ben Shepard said the app was a critical tool for residents, but preparation was key.

"We live in the most bush fire prone land in the world. We get fires each and every year. We need people to take some responsibility, do some preparation, make a plan and discuss it with each other," Insp Shepard said.

Fires Near Me

CLARENCE Valley residents in bush fire prone areas would have gotten very familiar with Fires Near Me over the past week.

The three alert levels for fires are advice, watch and act and emergency warning.

Insp Shepard said fires at emergency warning status are updated every half hour to an hour, but that information may be similar for several hours.

"What we might see is it is racing towards (an area), but the fire activity dies down so it might take an extra hour or two until it hits a particular area," he said.

For a fire at watch and act status information is updated about every two hours.

And fires at advice status are typically updated in the morning and the afternoon.

"If there is a change or a threat to the community, the associated alert level will change and the information to the community will change," Insp Shepard said.

"We do have advice fires, like we currently do, where the fire isn't moving much. So now we are looking to contain these fires, people aren't going to see big moves in the maps, or really much change in the information."

"As everything we do in our internal systems, it automatically populates fires near me.

"We aren't holding anything back, but as well people need to understand that fires can expand sometimes or spot near them as well."

Plan ahead

THE best way to stay safe in a fire is to have a plan and prepare your property.  

"Too often people don't necessarily take the time to put a bush fire survival plan together. They will take months to organise a family holiday, but they won't even take a half hour to discuss their plan," Insp Shepard said.  

Insp Shepard said families should include everyone in the discussion,even the kids, so in the case fire threatens when adults aren't around, they know what to do.  

"There has to be some responsibility on everyone in a fire-prone area to now have a plan. We have got potentially weeks if not months and months before we get any substantial rain," he said.

"We are going to see more fires. If this is the trigger point now for people to start looking and considering their plan, then that's a good thing."

THE FIRST STEPS TO PREPARING YOUR BUSH FIRE SURVIVAL PLAN:

  1. Discuss what to do is a fire threatens your home.
  2. Prepare your home and get it ready for bush fire season
  3. Know the bush fire alert levels
  4. Keep all the bush fire information numbers, websites and the smartphone app.

Prepare your property

A FIRE ready property will not only give you and your family a fighting chance in case you need to take refuge as the blazes rips through, it also helps protect volunteers.

Insp Shepard said even if residents plan on evacuating, they should think ahead and keep their property prepared through the danger period.

Here are some basic maintenance tips to prepare your property:

  • Clean your gutters of leaves and twigs
  • Install metal gutter guards
  • Repair damaged or missing tiles on the roof
  • Install fine metal mesh screens on windows and doors
  • Fit seals around doors and windows to eliminate gaps
  • Enclose the areas under the house
  • Repair or cover gaps in external walls
  • Attach a fire sprinkler system to gutters
  • Keep lawns short and gardens well maintained
  • Cut back trees and shrubs overhanging buildings
  • Clean up fallen leaves, twigs and debris around the property
  • Have hoses long enough to reach around your house
  • If you have a pool, tank or dam, put a Static Water Supply sign on your property entrance, so firefighters know where they can get water

Insp Shepard said it is "frustrating" when firefighters turn up a property that hasn't been prepared for fire.

"They will do their best to protect property. But if you don't give them a nice safe area to work from it is riskier for them."

Time to evacuate

HALFWAY Creek resident Carmel told The Daily Examiner she was concerned an evacuation point hadn't been set up for her area.

Insp Shepard said evacuation centres are typically setup if there is potential in the next two or three days for homes or lives to be impacted.

"An evacuation centre is a designated area that has people there ready to take people in. They're open, they're ready to go. They normally wouldn't happen in the first few hours of a fire incident," he said.

"We ask people within their plan to identify a safer location that they can move to.

"What we might say to the community as the fire moves towards them, is if your plan is to leave. Leave now.

Insp Shepard said an evacuation point shouldn't be expected by residents in the initial hours of a fire and a place should be designated in a survival plan.



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