Tamworth bush fire season: Firefighters urge families to prepare

PREPARE: Tamworth Rural Fire Service superintendent Allyn Purkiss wants families to prepare as soon as possible. Photo: Peter Hardin
PREPARE: Tamworth Rural Fire Service superintendent Allyn Purkiss wants families to prepare as soon as possible. Photo: Peter Hardin

FIREFIGHTERS are urging families to put together a bush fire survival plan before it’s too late.

And, with the fire danger season fast approaching on September 1 there’s no better time to sit the family down Tamworth Rural Fire Service superintendent Allyn Purkiss said.

“It’s something everyone in the household needs to know, and it’s not just bush fires it’s any emergency, floods, obviously if there’s a fire in the house and the smoke detector goes off everyone needs to know what to do to get out safely,” he said.

Tamworth residents should discuss what to do if a bush fire threatens their home, prepare their home for bush fire season, know the bush fire alert levels and keep all the websites, emergency and information phone numbers handy.

One of the biggest decisions families will need to make is whether to leave early or stay and defend their home from fire.

Those that do decide to stay need to be well prepared for how high temperatures will rise and how terrifying it can be.

“The biggest killer of our firefighters is heart attacks, it is a strenuous and scary thing to do,” Mr Purkiss said.

“A lot of the time people decide they are going to stay, when a bush fire comes roaring in past your house it’s very, very scary – the noise is incredible, wind is amazing, you can’t see anything because of smoke and the heat is extreme.

“It’s a very, very scary place to be.”

The human body can only take a couple of degrees increase in temperature before organs start shutting down and the brain stops working properly, which then affects decision-making.

For the RFS, families who decide to leave last minute are choosing the worst option – cars are not survivable objects in bush fires and don’t provide protection from radiant heat.

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Families need to be aware of the difference between bush fire alert levels.

Advice means a fire has started with no immediate danger, residents should stay up to date in case the situation changes.

In a watch and act alert, there is a heightened level of threat, conditions are changing and residents need to take action to protect themselves.

While an emergency warning is the highest level of bush fire alert, residents will be in danger and need to take action immediately, any delays could put lives at risk.

“If people are going to stay, they need to make sure they are prepared – have water on hand, back up power will be the first thing to go so they need a back up supply to be able to pump water without electricity,” Mr Purkiss said.

“If the house is defendable, people need to think about whether to leave early, cutting back overhead trees, making sure there are no missing tiles or gaps for embers to get in the roof.

“That’s how most fires start, is by ember attacks.”

Wood piles up against homes during winter need to be removed, and residents can ask RFS volunteers to come to their properties and assist in creating a bush fire survival plan.

“By all means give us a ring, we can send people out to chat and help them prepare,” Mr Purkiss said,

“Preparation can be done any time of the year, before the fire season starts is when the chat needs to happen, they need to have major decisions done.”

For more information visit rfs.nsw.gov.au