We spent the last weekend of October preparing for the bushfire season that is almost upon us once again. We concentrated on our firebreaks and clearing the long grass that has sprung up with the unusually long rains. It can take quite a lot of your spare time to get them done in time for the December 1 deadline, so we made sure we started early this year.
In the 15 years I've lived in my beautiful hills, I've learned some important rules to surviving the bushfire season.
1. Be prepared. Firebreaks needs to be done, extra long hose and retic in good condition, gutters cleared of dried leaves, full supply of buckets on hand.
A lot of people think that this area is too built-up for a bushfire to reach us. They'd be wrong. You can never be too prepared.
2. Know you're evacuation routes.
There have only been two times that I've ever been on evac alert or actually evacuated. The first time was when I was 13 and the 50 acres of crown land went up across the road from my Mum's house. It took less than four minutes for the flames to be licking at the tree tops in our front yard and a minute later, we passed the fire brigade as we were pulling out of the driveway.
The second time was last year. There was a fire near Mundaring Weir and about eleven towns went on evacuation alert. FESA (Fire and Emergency Services Authority) warned that this was a wild fire, and when the wind finally made up it's mind which way it would turn, the fire would come. It would come hot and fast and there would be no stopping it. The 30kms between us and the fire would be eaten away in a matter of hours.
We had a plan though. If it came from the south, we would head north on Stoneville Rd towards Gidgegannup. If it came east, we would head west on Richardson towards Parkerville and if it came west, we would take Riley and go to my Mum's house in Mount Helena.
Always have at least three routes in mind, because the wind can change in an instant.
3. Memorise the FESA hotline number.
1300 657 209. One call and you have the relevant info to help you decide if you're going to stay or go.
4. Know in advance if you're going to stay, or go.
They say that in about 90% of cases where residents stay to fight the fire, they save their homes. But this isn't always the safest thing to do. It all depends on the circumstances. If you're prepared, have no children or animals, then you have a good chance of saving the house. But if you have to evacuate children and animals, it's better to go and if you're going to go, you need to go early.
I always have a box of my most treasured possessions by the door. It stays there the entire season. Photos, birth and marriage certificates, keepsakes. Things that can't be replaced. Last year when I was checking the house to make sure that I had everything I needed, I realised just exactly what was important to me. The dvd collection I had spent thousands on, could be replaced. Clothes can be bought or borrowed. Computers aren't all that important anyway. If I could save any five items, what would they be? I don't have to think about that, because they're already in the box.
If you decide to go, grab the box from the front door, turn on the retic on the way out, load the dogs in the car and follow rule number 5.
5. Don't look back.