Stay firewise this summer

By Scott Bentley

Stay firewise this summer

The Australian bushfires have reinforced that we need to be vigilant when it comes to preventing fires.

A car crash during the holiday period set off a big scrub fire in Northland, and here in Marlborough, we’ve had our share of major fires causing huge losses. With a dry summer ahead, it’s a great idea to canvas some of the basics of being savvy about fire risks. Fires don’t have to start near your home to pose risk: Embers can go for kilometres from a large rural fire and land near housing, to ignite flammable material. Eliminating dry, flammable material from your home and section as much as possible is important. Some of these are obvious - dead leaves in the roof guttering, stored materials under the house (such as dry timbers, old paint rags, tins of paint and thinners), outdoor furniture cushions and covers. One potential hazard you might not think of is your doormat. A hessian or coir mat can catch easily. Ground fires start incredibly easily in a hot, dry environment and it can happen to any of us. Some hints, whether your property is your year-round residence or a holiday home or both:

  • Keep your lawns watered if at all possible. A battery-run timer on hoses is ideal,. It doesn’t take much to keep grass and plants green.

  • Use drought-resistant plants where possible - natives to the area are ideal.

  • Use your washing machine water for your garden - saves water and keeps the garden greener.

  • What’s attached to your house is part of your house - trellises covered in climbing plants are a conduit for flames, as are fences and decks.

  • Wood piles, vehicles parked close to the house, and large trees are all conduits as well.

Start by removing the hazards closest to your home:

  • Put away the outdoor furniture cushions when not in use

  • Keep your gutters clear

  • Get a non-flammable doormat

  • Screen vents

  • Don’t store flammable material under or against the house

  • Remove vegetation from against the house, creating a clear zone, with tree branches removed to above two metres from the ground.

  • Get rid of loose vegetation, branches and pinecones, leaves etc from around the house.

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