BUSHFIRE OVERVIEW

Bushfires are unpredictable and happen every year. The single biggest killer is indecision. To survive a bushfire you must be prepared to make your own decisions.

Plan to stay safe

Dangerous bushfires can start anywhere and at any time. It’s important to understand your risks and plan what you’ll do to keep safe when a bushfire threatens your home and family.

One of the most critical and valuable things you can do is to have a Fire Chat with your household and neighbours. Take 5 minutes now to discuss these simple questions:

  • When will you know to leave?

  • Where will you go?

  • Which way will you go?

It could save your life. Start Now.

Know your risk

If you think you and your family are not at risk of bushfire, you should think again. Over 90% of WA is bushfire prone.

Bushfires can happen anywhere and at any time, so it's important to know and understand the risks that affect you.

Is your property in a bushfire prone area? Find out for yourself with the Bushfire Prone Map.

Environments at risk

Grass fires can start easily and spread quickly. If you live in an area where houses or urban areas are near grasslands, you're at risk.

Coastal scrub fires can be hot and move fast. If you live near coastal scrub, you’re at risk.

Bushfires can start anywhere, so even if you live in a suburban area near parks or reserves, you’re at risk.

Fires can spread quickly over large areas like paddocks. If you live on a farm or near paddocks, you’re at risk.

If you live in an area surrounded by or near forest or bushland, you’re at high risk.

To better understand your risk, consider the following risk factors and if they apply to you:

Hills
If you live on or near steep hills, you live in a high-risk area. The steeper the slope, the faster a fire will burn up it.

Bushfire history
Some areas have a history of bushfires. If your area has experienced a lot of bushfires in the past, you are more at risk.

Vegetation
Fires need fuel to burn. As the weather warms up, vegetation around your property naturally dries out and increases your bushfire risk. If you have long grass, forest and woodland-floor litter and flammable scrub nearby, you're in a high-risk area.

Roads
Being able to leave the area is crucial if there is a fire. If your area has a single road, a long dead-end road, or roads that are easily blocked by falling trees, you are more at risk.

If you live with any of these high-risk factors, you’ll need to prepare your home, property and family in case of a bushfire. It is important that you and your family decide and agree on what you will do if a bushfire threatens your home. Take 5 minutes now to have a Fire Chat with your household and neighbours.

When is bushfire season?

Bushfires can happen all year round. But during the hottest and driest times of the year, bushfire risk is at its highest.

On hot, dry and windy days, there’s a much higher chance of a bushfire starting and getting out of control. If you’re travelling on these days:

  • Visit safer places such as cities and towns.

  • Be prepared to change your travel plans at short notice if a fire starts.

  • Make sure someone outside your travel group knows your plans, destinations and expected times.

Travelling during Bushfire Season

If you plan to travel in bushfire season it’s essential you know what to do if you encounter a bushfire. Every year, people are killed or seriously injured by bushfires. If you’re travelling or staying near bushland, fire is a real risk for you.

Follow our tips below to stay safe when travelling this bushfire season.

What to pack in your bushfire emergency kit

Before leaving on a road trip, it is essential to have a potentially life-saving emergency kit packed. Your kit should include essential items such as:

  • AM/FM portable radio
  • Spare batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Woollen blankets
  • Drinking water
  • Sturdy shoes
  • Full-coverage cotton or woollen clothing
  • Detailed printed map of the area where you’ll be travelling

Total Fire Bans

A Total Fire Ban (TFB) is issued for days when fires will be very difficult to control and are most likely to threaten lives and property. On a TFB day, all open-air fire activity is prohibited, including campfires, cookers and ovens that use solid fuel like wood or charcoal.

Restricted and prohibited burning times are put in place during periods of high bushfire threat. Restriction times and restricted activities can differ between local governments, so it’s essential to check the local rules and current information of each place you plan to visit.

You can find out if a TFB has been declared in your area here, or by calling the TFB information line on 1800 709 355.

Travelling with a caravan

Make sure your caravan is as safe as possible by:

  • Making sure your caravan has a smoke alarm, fire extinguisher and fire blanket.
  • Securing your electrical and gas equipment and making sure it is appropriately fitted, in good working order, and turned off while travelling.

Stay up to date

When you are travelling, the best way to get bushfire information is via ABC local radio. In a major bushfire, ABC local radio will communicate emergency broadcast across all radio programs approximately every 15 minutes.

You can find the frequency for specific areas here or by calling 1300 13 9994.

Fire Danger Ratings

The Fire Danger Rating (FDR) tells you how dangerous a fire would be if one started. The higher the FDR, the more severe the bushfire is expected to be.

It is vital that you are aware of the FDR for the areas you plan to travel in. You can find all of the current FDRs for WA here.

TIP: Most Local Governments have roadside signs showing the current FDR for that area, so keep an eye out.

Encountering a bushfire while driving

Bushfires can affect roads and highways, leading to reduced visibility and even road closures. Before you head out, always check road conditions first by contacting Main Roads WA on 138 138 or using this Travel Map to find current alerts, road works or traffic issues.

If you see signs of a bushfire, like smoke or flames, call triple zero and leave the area immediately. If you become trapped by a fire:

  • Stay in your car and turn your engine off.
  • Park in an area with little or no vegetation on the side of the road furthest from the fire.
  • Face your vehicle towards the oncoming fire.
  • Close the doors, windows and outside vents and do not get out or open windows until the fire front has passed.
  • Lie on the floor and cover your body with any woollen or cotton blankets or cloths.
  • Stay in the car until the fire front has passed and the temperature has dropped outside.

Staying overnight

Whenever you are staying in a bushfire prone area overnight, be sure to:

  • Find out the bushfire safety plans in place in the area.
  • Find out where you can shelter safely nearby, in case you need to leave.
  • Ask for information on alternative routes to leave the area.
  • Always take advice from emergency services personnel if a bushfire occurs.

Important numbers

Save these important numbers into your mobile phone and write them down:

  • DFES information line: 13 33 37
  • National Relay Service for hearing impaired: 1800 555 630
  • Reporting fires or emergency situations: 000

During an emergency, stay up to date by:

Campfire safety

An open campfire is part of camping. But campfires can easily cause a bushfire if you do not build or extinguish them correctly.

Follow our simple tips below to stay safe when you’re camping.

Before you light a fire

  • Check if a campfire is allowed. If a Total Fire Ban (TFB) or local fire restrictions are in place it is illegal to do anything that could start a fire, which includes lighting a campfire.
  • Check the Fire Danger Rating (FDR) for the area you are camping in. Campfires cannot be lit if the FDR is very high, severe, extreme or catastrophic.
  • Check the conditions around you. If the weather is dry, hot and windy, it’s unsafe to light a campfire.

Building a safe campfire

  • Clear any branches, leaves or twigs at least 3 metres around or above the campfire.
  • Build your campfire at least 3 metres away from tents, camping equipment and any flammable items like gas cylinders and fuel cans.
  • To prevent hot embers from flying out, dig a 30cm deep pit for the fire.
  • Create a border around the fire using large rocks.
  • Never use flammable liquids on a fire, even when you are trying to get it started.

Looking after your campfire

  • Don’t overdo it. Your fire only needs to be big enough for cooking and keeping warm.
  • Never leave your fire unattended, not even for a minute.
  • Put your fire out properly with water not soil, even if going for a short walk or swim.
  • Never leave kids and pets unsupervised near a fire.
  • Always keep a bucket of water nearby.

Putting your campfire out

  • Use water to completely extinguish your fire before you leave the campsite.
  • Don’t bury the fire to put it out, as fires can stay hot for more than eight hours.
  • Always extinguish your fire before you go to sleep to avoid coal or ember burns.

Basic campfire safety

  • Do not burn dangerous or flammable items, such as aerosol cans, as they can explode.
  • Never put glass in your campfire as it can shatter or explode.
  • Never put unopened tins of food on a fire as they may explode and cause injuries.
  • Call Triple Zero (000) to report a fire.

Cigarette butts

Carelessly discarded cigarette butts are a frequent cause of fires.

Over seven billion cigarette butts are discarded across Australia every year and are the most frequently recorded type of litter in Western Australia.

Careless disposal of a cigarette butt can also be very costly, attracting a fine of up to $500 for an individual.

Make sure your butt is fully extinguished before disposing of it and never throw it from a car.

If you see someone carelessly dispose of a cigarette you can report the offence to Keep Australia Beautiful WA at www.kabc.wa.gov.au or phone 1300 766 541.

Penalties have increased:

  • Cigarette butt littering fines have increased from $75 to $200 for individuals and $500 for corporations (businesses).
  • The fine for lit cigarettes is higher, $500 for individuals and $2,000 for corporations
  • During a Total Fire Ban the fine is severe - $25,000 and/or 12 months in jail.

More Information