Protect your property from bushfires

Homes were destroyed yesterday as the bushfires raged through Sydney's Blue Mountains, and it isn’t the first time that property owners’ fears have been brought to the surface.

In Springwood and Winmalee in New South Wales, west of Sydney, a number of houses were reportedly destroyed, according to the Rural Fire Service.

Almost 600 firefighters were battling up to 80 bush and grass fires yesterday, 31 uncontained, across the afternoon, The Australian reported.

Around 8,700 homes west, south west and north of Sydney suffered power outages. This morning, reports were coming in from ABC radio with Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill saying a number of properties are lost.

‘‘It’s a scene of utter devastation," Greenhill told the ABC from Emma Parade.

"There are at least a dozen home lost right where I'm standing now. We’re seeing just house after house after house that’s gone."

For those currently unsure of where the fires are, this bushfire map is being regularly updated by the NSW Rural Fire Services due to intermittant site outages on their official website.

Even those some distance away from the Blue Mountains reported seeing the “orange glow” of the bushfires. These photos below come from residents in western Sydney suburb, and popular investment spot, Whalan, who shared them with Property Observer (also see our gallery below). While the fire is unlikely to reach these homes, it certainly has many asking how they can protect themselves in case.

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Photo above by Lisa Blundell

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Photo above by Nicole Brown

When purchasing a property

Every transaction needs to be entered into with your eyes wide open. That includes knowing the risk of bushfire, floods, cyclones and other natural disasters.

Currently, in Victoria, vendors are now required to disclose whether a property is on bushfire prone land. You can also check the details of the land online via this state government portal.

In New South Wales, a section 149 certificate can be applied for from the correct governing council. This does come at a small cost for the purchaser. For instance, the City of Sydney charges between $50 and $80 for these certificates. If you're intending to develop, rebuild or put a granny flat on the block, the NSW Royal Fire Service has some useful information online about which hoops you may need to jump through, and details to be aware of.

Your current property

To create your own property bushfire survival plan, there's a document from the government available that covers everything from clothing to consider, to deciding whether you should leave your home. It’s worth having a read through, particularly if you’re in a more regional area.

The guide recommends that you ask yourself the following questions to determine the property's level of risk.

Ask:

1. Do you live within a couple of streets of bushland?

2. Does your local area have a history of bush fires?

3. Do you have many trees and shrubs around your home?

4. If you need to leave your home, do you need to travel through bushland?

5. Is your Bush Fire Survival Plan more than one year old?

Bushfire maps can also help you determine if your area is potentially at risk.

Preparation tips to protect against bushfires

- Cut back overhanging trees or shrubs and dispose of cuttings appropriately

- Check the condition of your roof and replace damaged or missing tiles

- Non-combustible fences are most effective

- Clean leaves from the roof, gutters and downpipes

- Fit quality metal leaf guards

- Enclose underfloor areas

- Plant trees and shrubs that are less likely to ignite due to low oil content

- Consider installing a Static Water Supply sign if you have a water tank, dam or swimming pool

- Store wood piles well away from the house

- Keep grass cut

- Make sure pressure relief valves on LPG cylinders face away from the house

- Ensure you have a hose long enough to reach your entire home

- Store flammable items away from the house

- Check the condition of external walls/cladding and seal gaps

- Choose a non-combustible doormat

- Metal flywire screens should be attached to the outside windows and doors

When the fires have passed, don't let your guard down. You will need to patrol and ensure no embers or sparks can affect your property.

Always ensure that all fire alarms are adequately installed with the correct batteries and that home and content insurance is in place that covers you in the event of a fire. If there are tenants in the property, ensure that they are prepared in the event of a bushfire, and that they are provided with as much information as possible.

Grants from the government are occasionally available for those most badly affected. For instance, in Tasmania these are the current listed grants for property owners, tenants and local communities. They include up to $10,000 to assist with rebuilding a property and $5,000 for tenants to assist with replacing their contents.

In Western Australia, this legal aid document lays out the rules between owners and tenants.

"If you own the house and it is now unfit for the tenant to live in, you cannot make a tenant move out immediately so try to work out an agreement with them," the document states. It also covers an outline of the rules surrounding bonds and commercial tenancies.

Observer Jo Chivers has also previously written on the subject of the impact of bushfire zoning on your development

Views of the fire around Sydney

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All our thoughts go to those currently affected.

Jennifer Duke

Jennifer Duke

Jennifer Duke was a property writer at Property Observer

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