Australia has a sorry history with bushfires – so how do you prepare for every scenario?

From how to spot fires to getting your safety kits ready, this is everything you need to know about bushfire season.

All your questions answered >>>

What is the most bushfire prone area in Australia?

Weather systems work differently across Australia’s temperate and tropical regions.

Severe bushfire conditions are influenced by a combination of these systems, but in most cases by hot, dry winds blowing from central Australia.

The dry summer months are the danger time for southern Australia, while northern Australia is at risk during winter.

Source: Bureau of Meteorology

What are the current fire apps in Australia?

The Fires Near Me Australia app is listed as a comprehensive tool for staying aware of bush fire threats across the nation using information sourced directly from fire and emergency services.

The Qld Fires app is designed to provide information on current fires within Queensland.

The information is displayed in a list or map view to enable the user to understand how far the fire is from a user.

You can download the Qld fires app here.

What to do if you get caught in a bushfire?

According to the Bushfire Safety Guide, discuss with your family if you are capable and prepared to stay and defend your home or if leaving is the best choice for your family.

You need to consider:

■ Your health. Fire conditions may aggravate conditions, such as breathing conditions that may make it difficult to defend your property for an extended period of time.

■ Your physical abilities. You may need to defend your home for several hours in extreme heat and smoke which may require intense physical activity.

■ Your mobility. You will need to move around your property with ease, potentially in dark,

windy, and noisy conditions.

■ Your mental health. The impact of bushfire can be traumatic and you will need to be

mentally prepared.

■ Your ability to make critical and informed decisions under stressful conditions.

Where do you hide in a bushfire?

Remain in your home while the fire front is passing, and shelter in a room furthest from the fire front. Make sure the room has at least two ways to get outside, and has a water supply. People have died sheltering in rooms without a second exit door.

Source: Department of Fire and Emergency Services

How do I contact fire and emergency services?

Across Australia for emergencies call Triple Zero (000). (TTY: 106)

In Queensland for non-emergencies call 13 QGOV (13 74 68), or internationally +61 7 3328 4811 (+10 hours UTC).

More info here.

In NSW contact the Bush Fire Information Line on 1800 679 737.

In Victoria contact Triple 000.

In South Australia call the Country Fire Service (CFS) Bushfire Information Hotline on 1800 362 361 or TTY (teletypewriter or textphone) on 13 16 77 for information on: fire danger ratings.

In Western Australia call 132 500.

In Tasmania get further information here.

In the Northern Territory call 08 8999 3473 in non-emergencies.

What are the warning signs of a bushfire?

Weather conditions influence the size, intensity, speed, and predictability of bushfires and how dangerous they can be to the community.

Vegetation growth can be encouraged by periods of wet weather, increasing the amount of fuel available (grass, leaf litter, twigs, bark). When the weather is hot, the humidity is low and there’s been little recent rain, this vegetation dries out and becomes more flammable.

A fire is more likely to start, and continue to burn, in hot, dry and windy weather.

Source: Bureau of Meteorology

What should be in a fire escape kit?

According to the NSW Rural Fire Service you should include:

■ Portable battery-operated radio

■ Waterproof torch

■ Spare batteries

■ First aid kit with manual

■ Candles with waterproof matches

■ Woollen blankets

■ Emergency contact numbers

■ Waterproof bag for valuables

More info here.

When will bushfire season start?

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services states: “Fire season in Queensland often begins in July and runs through until October, and can extend through to February.”

In NSW the statutory Bush Fire Danger Period runs from 1 October to 31 March, however it may vary due to local conditions.

If you are planning to light a fire in the open during this time, you will need a Fire Permit.

See the map of current fire bans and restirctions in Queensland here.

Source: NSW Rural Fire Service

Can you have a small fire pit in your backyard?

According to the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services: Where possible, the fire should be lit in a properly constructed barbecue or fire pit, preferably surrounded by large rocks, constructed to prevent the escape of fire or burning materials. The fire must be smaller than two metres in all directions. Any larger fires require a permit to light fire.

More info here.

What was the worst bushfire in Australian history?

According to Australian Geographic the deadliest bushfires on record, ranked by number of fatalities, are:

1. Black Summer, July 2019 – March 2020

Smoke from the fires was responsible for 450 deaths, while 26 fatalities were directly caused by the fires.

2. Black Saturday (VIC), 7-8 Feb 2009

Record-high temperatures and strong winds after a season of intense drought set the bush alight across the state, causing widespread devastation, 173 fatalities and the destruction of more than 2000 homes.

3. Ash Wednesday (VIC, SA), 16-18 Feb 1983

Accidents and arsonists started most of the fires, which spread rapidly through scenic residential regions near Melbourne and Adelaide, resulting in the death of 75 people and the destruction of nearly 1900 homes.

4. Black Friday (VIC), 13-20 Jan 1939

In all, 71 people were killed and 650 houses were destroyed. A Royal Commission investigation into the fires led to increased fire awareness and prevention efforts throughout Australia.

5. Black Tuesday (TAS), 7 Feb 1967

Strong northerly winds and high temperatures coupled to help fuel at least 80 different fires across southern Tasmania, which swept over the south-east coast of the state and came within 2km of central Hobart. The fires killed 62 people and razed almost 1300 homes.

Originally published as Australia’s bushfire season: Everything you need to know

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