During a bushfire

During a fire, you and your property are at risk from several things, depending on the stage of the fire.

Stage one – before the fire arrives

The lead time is highly variable, but a general guide is up to 30 minutes. During this time you may see embers, thick smoke, increased darkness and noise, it will also be hot and frightening.

If it is safe to do so – go to a Bushfire Safer Place.

A Bushfire Safer Place is a place of relative safety. It may be used as a place for people to stay in or as a place of first resort for those who have decided they will leave high risk locations early on a high fire risk day.

Properties on the edge of these locations generally face a higher level of risk compared with those nearer the centre of the area. The relative safety of these properties can be improved by property owners undertaking appropriate bushfire safety measures to ensure they don't place themselves and the greater community at risk.

Last minute decisions to relocate in the face of fire are extremely dangerous.

Will you be safe in a Bushfire Safer Place?

There are no guarantees regarding your safety if you choose to stay in a Bushfire Safer Place or if you relocate to one. It is unlikely you will be exposed to direct flame or severe radiant heat. You may be exposed to spark, embers and smoke which may start secondary fires in vegetation, gardens and structures.

Stage two – during the fire

This is a relatively short period, but that does not make it less horrific. It will last from 5 to 20 minutes, depending on conditions. Although brief, this is the most dangerous stage and you should seek shelter inside.

As the fire front passes you will be subject to radiant heat which is many times hotter than air temperature. Radiant heat travels in straight lines but will not penetrate solid objects. Take shelter until the fire-front passes.

There may also be flame contact, ember attack and smoke along with loud noises, darkness and power failure.

What if you are caught in the path of a bushfire?

A car is one of the deadliest places to be in a bushfire. The only sure way to survive is to be nowhere near the fire.

  • If you see smoke, slow down and be aware there could be people, vehicles or animals on the road
  • Turn around where safe to do so and drive to the nearest township or Bushfire Safer Place
  • Pull over to the side of the road and stop your vehicle in a clear area
  • Turn your car headlights on and close windows and outside vents
  • Ensure you are not in the path of the fire
  • Keep your headlights and hazard lights on and wait until the smoke clears

If you can't escape the path of the fire.

  • Stay inside your vehicle – it offers better protection than being in the open
  • Park in a clear area, preferably behind a solid structure to block some of the radiant heat
  • Face your car towards the fire
  • Turn the engine and air-conditioning off
  • Tightly close the doors, windows and air vents
  • Lie on the floor and shelter under woollen blankets to protect yourself from radiant heat
  • Avoid dehydration: drink lots of water
  • Heat and smoke from the fire and fumes from the car may make breathing difficult – stay under the blankets and cover your mouth with a P2 mask
  • Stay down until the sound of the fire has passed, carefully leave the car (it will be hot)
  • Move to a safe area (e.g. land that has already burnt)

Bushfire Last Resort Refuges

Bushfire Last Resort Refuges are your LAST choice of location to shelter from a bushfire.

A Bushfire Last Resort Refuge is a space or building which you could go to and remain in during a bushfire in your area.

It is an area that provides a minimum level of protection from the immediate life threatening effects of radiant heat and direct flame contact in a bushfire.

A Bushfire Last Resort Refuge is intended to provide a place of relative safety during a bushfire. It does not guarantee the survival of those who assemble there. You should only use a Bushfire Last Resort Refuge when your personal Bushfire Survival Plans cannot be implemented or have failed.

Risks associated with Bushfire Last Resort Refuges are:

  • Travelling to a Bushfire Last Resort Refuge may be dangerous. Traffic congestion, fire activity, heavy smoke, accidents or fallen trees may block the route
  • There is no guarantee that you will be safe from fire or radiant heat when travelling to or sheltering at a Bushfire Last Resort Refuge
  • Emergency services may not be present
  • There may be limited capacity
  • Bushfire Last Resort Refuges do not cater for animals
  • Bushfire Last Resort Refuges do not provide meals, amenities or special needs (e.g. for infants, the elderly, the ill or disabled)
  • Bushfire Last Resort Refuges may not provide shelter from the elements, particularly flying sparks and embers.

Stage three – after the fire front has passed

Many hours, sometimes days, after the fire front has passed, properties continue to be at risk from ember attack and smouldering fuel. You should extinguish small fires.

Stay Informed

At all stages of a bushfire it is important to stay informed.

Fires can threaten suddenly and without warning.

Find information on:

Do not rely on a single source for emergency warning information.

The CFS has a great social media presence informing you of current incidents, and spreading important community safety updates, warnings and news.