Bushfires can occur without warning and can quickly impact your holiday location. If you are planning a holiday, you need to think about bushfire safety.
Fire bans and the Fire Danger Rating
Travelling in the country during the bushfire season needs to be done with extreme caution and vigilance. Fire restrictions apply throughout South Australia's fire ban districts, including metropolitan Adelaide, during the fire danger season. Information relating to the fire ban districts and Fire Danger Season dates is available at: www.cfs.sa.gov.au. It is important to know which fire ban district you are visiting in order to know whether a fire ban is current and whether restrictions apply.
The CFS may declare Total Fire Bans in some districts or even across the whole state on days when severe weather conditions could cause fires to become uncontrollable. On days of fire danger or Total Fire Ban, it is best to postpone a trip into the bush since the risk of fire starting and moving rapidly is extremely high.
These are days when high temperatures, strong northerly winds and low humidity occur. Think about what you will do on those days: activities should be restricted, for example, no barbecues or camp fires, and avoid activities that can place you in areas of high risk. Instead of bushwalking, go swimming or visit local attractions in low fire risk areas.
In the event of a bushfire
Remain vigilant of your surroundings, and follow any advice or directions provided by emergency services personnel or via an emergency broadcast on local radio: (see back page for frequencies). Let someone know your plans and how to contact you. During a bushfire the critical time for personal safety is during the 5 to 10 minutes it takes for the fire front to pass. As the fire front passes, properties will be subject to radiant heat, flame contact, ember attack, smoke, loud noise, darkness, and power failure.
Radiant heat can kill. To protect yourself, you need to cover up, dress appropriately and take refuge. Solid structures and appropriate clothing may provide protection from radiant heat. It cannot penetrate through solid objects, which means your best protection is in a well-prepared house or structure if you are unable to leave the area before the bushfire starts.
Personal protective clothing
Cover all exposed skin to protect from radiant heat. Wear:
- Long sleeved shirt and trousers in natural fibres (for example, wool or cotton)
- Wide-brimmed hat and solid shoes or boots
Travelling on the road
Ensure your vehicle is properly maintained for the journey you are undertaking. Keep several woollen blankets and a supply of fresh water in your car, just in case you are caught in a bushfire.
If you are aware of bushfires before you leave home, plan an alternative route and do not travel to the affected area. If you come across smoke while travelling, turn around and go back. Listen to the radio and ask locally for help to find a safe way through.
If you need to use your car as a shelter from a bushfire:
- Find a clearing away from dense bush and flammable material on the ground, such as branches and leaves.
- Park the car off the roadway to avoid collisions in poor visibility.
- Face the car towards the oncoming fire front.
- Turn headlights and hazard warning lights on.
- Tightly close all windows and doors.
- Stay inside your car – it offers the best protection from the radiant heat.
- Shut all the air vents and turn the air conditioning off.
- Turn the engine off.
- Get down below the window level into the foot wells and shelter under woollen blankets.
- Drink water to minimise the risks of dehydration.
As the fire front passes
- Stay in the car until the fire front has passed.
- Fuel tanks are very unlikely to explode.
- Smoke gradually gets inside the car and fumes will be released from the interior of the car. Stay as close to the floor as possible to minimise inhalation and cover mouth with a moist cloth.
- Tyres and external plastic body parts may catch alight. In more extreme cases the car interior may catch on fire.
- Once the front has passed and the temperature has dropped cautiously exit the car (be careful – internal parts will be extremely hot).
- Move to a safe area such as a strip of land that has already burnt.
- Stay covered in woollen blankets, continue to drink water and wait for assistance.
It is advisable not to go bushwalking during fire danger days, but if you are caught in a bushfire you should:
- Never try to outrun the flames.
- Head for a natural fire break, e.g. streams, clearings or rock outcrops.
- Keep away from high ground in the path of the fire.
- Never shelter in an above ground water tank.
- Cover yourself or shelter behind a solid object such as a rock, to protect against radiant heat.
Camping and houseboats
People on camping and houseboat holidays must ensure they are familiar with local fire restrictions.
- If camping or staying in a caravan park, enquire if a safe refuge area has been designated. A brick toilet building or shower block is often ideal.
- Be careful using generators and make sure you are familiar with restrictions applying to fires and barbeques.
- If visiting a national park, ask the rangers about the local fire and barbecue regulations as they can vary. This also applies to houseboat users when lighting fires along riverbanks