Last week saw one of the worst bushfires that covered two states in Australia — NSW and Queensland. The bushfire, which is still being contained, resulted from the extremely hot weather that’s plaguing the country after a long summer drought. As of yesterday, there were still 54 ongoing fires in NSW, with 23 still to be contained.

According to the NSW Rural Fire Service, the fire has already claimed four lives, destroyed 421 homes, and damaged 90 more. Although there has been some rainfall in the past few days which helped reduce fire activity, they weren’t enough to totally extinguish the fire and some areas are still at risk.

NSW remains in a state of emergency as severe fire danger ratings are issued for the areas that are in the way of the spread of the bushfire. In Queensland, residents who live along the areas where the bushfire might travel are advised to leave their homes immediately and seek shelter.

The government is putting people on alert because the fires could get worse for the weeks to come, as the heatwave rolls in and barely any rainfall. NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said to expect widespread severe fire dangers as temperatures rise to around the 40s, with strong winds and little moisture in the air.

Fire Safety Advice During Bushfires

Aside from residential fires, bushfires are common occurrences in Australia, that’s why it is important for every resident to prepare for them. Here are some fire safety tips to keep yourself and your family safe during a bushfire.

1. Understand the fire danger ratings by heart, and know what each warning means.

  • Code Red or Catastrophic – Issued when conditions are considered at their worst to try and control a fire. Buildings aren’t expected to withstand fires burning in these conditions and fire agencies say you shouldn’t expect a fire truck to arrive and defend your property. Leave as soon as the Catastrophic rating has been declared in your area.
  • Extreme – Issued when conditions are extremely hot, dry and windy. Homes that are built to withstand a bushfire and are well prepared may provide safety, but you should only consider staying with your property if you are prepared to the highest level.
  • Severe- Issued when conditions are hot and dry and possibly windy. If you’re not prepared it’s recommended you leave bushfire-prone areas early in the day when this rating is declared.
  • Very high, high and low-moderate – Fire authorities say a fire starting on days of these conditions can most likely be controlled. Properly prepared homes could provide shelter from a fire burning in these conditions.

2. Create a bushfire survival plan and discuss it with your family members.

3. Identify safer places in the neighborhood so you know where you need to go in case you need to leave or evacuate.

Neighbourhood Safer Places (NSP) should also be marked in your bushfire survival plan.

4. Clean up your home and remove combustibles that might attract fire.

5. Clean up your surroundings.

Sweep dry foliage such as fallen leaves and sticks, especially the ones on your roof or gutter. Cut off branches and overhanging trees.

6. Provide water supply to the fire fighters.

Swimming pools, drums, water tanks and dams should be filled up with water to help fire fighters extinguish any fire that might spread to your area.

7. Ensure fire compliance.

If your home or property has been constructed according to the Building Code of Australia, your home might be able to withstand minor fire warnings. It is also important to ensure that you have a fire protection system in place to alert you when there’s a fire nearby. A smoke alarm is an essential warning device that will let you know when the smoke has reached your area.

8. Know when to leave.

Choosing to stay and defend your home might put you in serious risk. You won’t be able to get out if it’s too late. Keep yourself updated with the current fire warnings and leave as soon as you feel unsafe.