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Planning for a Bush Fire

Copyright © Beverley Paine July 2002

Planning for catastrophe is embedded in every permaculture design. Heavy rainfall, in the form of 'cloud-burst', and strong winds are two other dangers we have to consider, but fire is an ever-present worry during the long hot summer months.

When planning our property we carried out a permaculture sector analysis to determine where the wild energies of fire, wind, sun and water enter and leave the property. We positioned the house close to the road, on the highest point, aware that this was the safest option should we need to evacuate in case of bush fire. Driveways form a band free of vegetation to the north, west and south of the house. To further protect the house from potential fires driven by hot northerlies we planted decorative deciduous trees. It is hoped that when mature they will form a 'fire blanket' and slow the fire's approach, giving us time to fight the fire or evacuate if necessary.

The vegetable garden and chook run are situated on the eastern side of the house, again providing a low burn area. To the south, on the steep slope, we removed several large feral olive trees and planted a small mixed orchard. Amongst the fruit trees we planted leguminous plants, which we keep pruned. These fertilise the soil and act as windbreaks, and were selected from a list of suitable trees for fire prone areas.

The establishment of microclimates plays an important role around the house in summer. Frog and fish ponds are dotted around the garden to raise humidity. Vine covered pergolas and shade houses fitted with spray irrigation keep the areas below moist and green. A recent visitor likened the effect, with the deciduous trees displaying vibrant green leaves, as reminiscent of her Queensland home.

Although our property is connected to town water, which is used for irrigation, we collect rainwater for use in the house. We keep one tank full all summer, which is connected to a water pump to fight fires, if necessary. This, in turn, is connected to the spray irrigation around the house, and is now extended to our verandah and timber walkway. Should a fire approach the house can be quickly enveloped in a fine mist. In summer, buckets and old sacks are ready by the back door, to put out spot fires and embers should the worst happen.

On the wall by the phone is a list of emergency instructions, including what to wear, what to do with the pets, and how to safely evacuate. Copies of important personal papers are kept off the property. It's impossible to be completely prepared for disaster, but the steps we've taken reassure us we have a fighting chance.





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care for people,
return surplus,
reduce consumption

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Copyright © Beverley Paine 2002-14. Article from this website may be downloaded, reproduced, and distributed without permission as long as each copy includes this entire notice along with citation information (i.e., name of the periodical in which it originally appeared, date of publication, and author's name). Permission must be obtained from the author in order to reprint this article in a published work or to offer it for sale in any form. Please visit Bungala Ridge Permaculture Gardens for more original content by Beverley Paine.