Protect your small farm from grass fires

The recent rain experienced across many parts of New South Wales has been welcome – but it’s also brought an unwelcome threat for many people.

The rain has lead to increased grass growth across many areas and as this grass begins to dry out, there’s an increased risk of grass fires.

Grass fires can be especially dangerous because they can start quickly and spread rapidly, catching people off-guard. They can be very hot and produce large amounts of heat which can kill anyone caught out in the open.

Preparing for grass fires

There are things you can do now to protect yourself from grass fires.

The first step is having a Bush Fire Survival Plan. This will help you not only understand the level of risk in your area but also help you and your family prepare for it. Everyone’s Bush Fire Survival Plan will be different, so it’s important to talk about it with your family and ensure everyone in your house knows what your plan is and where you might go during a fire.

You should also prepare yourself by ensuring you have an Emergency Survival Kit, which you can use or take with you if a fire starts. Things you might want to include are a battery powered radio, a torch, spare batteries, first aid kit, candles, woollen blankets, emergency contact numbers and a bag for valuables. You can then add items like clothing, money, ATM cards and medicines if you need to leave before or during a fire.

Once you’ve prepared yourself, you should prepare your property. Things to consider include:
  • Having well maintained firebreaks mowed, ploughed, slashed or even grazed along fence lines or around your home, shed and storage areas which can slow a fire’s spread.
  • Have a well maintained area around your home, such as lawns, paths or gardens. Keep the grass cut.
  • Seal under floor spaces to stop embers entering under your house.
  • Make sure you’ve got water for firefighting, in case a fire is on your property. Have water tanks filled and connected to a pump.
  • Have a diesel pump. Electric pumps won’t work during a fire if the power goes out.
  • Store things like fuel or woodpiles well away from your house.
  • Check the access to your property. Ensure cattle grids or bridges can hold the weight of a fire truck.
  • Make sure you’ve got adequate levels of insurance for your home, contents, machinery and crops or stock.
Machinery such as tractors, slashers, harvesters, welders, chainsaws and grinders can start grass fires. To help reduce the risk of fires starting or spreading:
  • Check machinery is free from any faults and mechanical defects which could start a fire.
  • Ensure machinery is fitted with an approved spark arrestor.
  • Carry a working water fire extinguisher or knapsack.
  • Limit the use of equipment during hot, dry and windy conditions.
  • Slashers shouldn’t be used unless conditions are mild or are accompanied by an independent means of suppressing a fire.
  • Grinders shouldn’t be used unless conditions are mild or the surrounding area is dampened down to prevent an ignition.
These are just some of the things you can do to reduce the risk to your property. Your Bush Fire Survival Plan will give you more suggestions on how to reduce the risk.

What to do during a grass fire

If you see a fire, report it immediately to Triple Zero (000). This means we can get the right resources like firefighters and trucks there as quickly as possible. The earlier you report the fire, the earlier we can get to it and start protect you and your community.

The safest place to be during any fire is well away from it but because grass fires can start and spread so quickly, it’s important you know what to do if a fire starts.

Grass fires can generate large amounts of heat, so make sure you protect yourself by covering up all exposed skin with protective clothing like:
  • Long sleeved shirt and pants, made from a natural fibre such as cotton.
  • Sturdy leather boots and woollen socks.
  • Leather gloves.
  • A wide-brimmed hat.
  • A face mask or towel to cover your mouth or nose.
  • Eye protection such as goggles.
  • Make sure you drink plenty of water to keep hydrated and be aware of your level of physical fitness, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and sunburn.
If a fire starts, follow your Bush Fire Survival Plan. Monitor your local radio station for updates and check this website for advice and information.

Source: NSW Rural Fire Service
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