A quick study from Australia and the United States for the European Wildfires – Prepare, Plan and Actions

European Wildfires

People throw water and spray hoses on flames near their homes in Canecas, on the outskirts of Lisbon. Photograph: Mário Cruz/EPA

I have written the below for people to share with their European friends, families, and colleagues currently in or around areas affected by the European wildfires. It summarizes the learnings from years of Bushfires and Wildfires in Australia and the U.S. This piece aims to help facilitate discussions around preparation, planning, and what actions could be taken. At all times, it is best to defer to your Local Fire Authority for their guidance and advice, as they know the local situation. It should also be stressed that the most important assets in life, is life itself, so Prepare, Plan and Take Actions on your home and get to safety early.

Australia and the United States have been dealing with high temperatures and Wildfires for over 200 years and have the knowledge to transfer for protecting our communities, buildings, and loved ones. Right now, Europeans are starting to experience the same problems and have less experience and need our help during these difficult times. It’s likely we all have family, friends and/or colleagues living in Europe, and we must offer any support we can to help them get through these events.

During wildfire disasters, the most important thing to do is “To Prepare for the risk of Wildfire, have an effective Wildfire Plan and take Actions early”. Our experience is that in dealing with wildfires you need to Prepare, Plan and take Action.

Prepare

1. Assess the Risk of Wildfire & understand the three (3) threats – Ember, Radiant & Direct Heat taking into consideration the following:

  • Topography and Weather conditions
  • Woodlands (density, type, moisture content)
  • Defensible (defendable) space around building
  • Building construction material

2. Use the Hierarchy of controls to lower the risk of wildfire:

  • Eliminate combustible material around the home
  • Substitute combustible material with less combustible material (replace trees around the home with small shrubs)
  • Install protection around the home (non-combustible and corrosion resistant screens – ember and radiant heat screens)
  • Maintain your defensible (defendable) space to remove combustible material (clean your gutters and under deck areas)
  • Have ready gloves, masks, glasses, long cotton shirts and pants and solid boots to prevent becoming overcome by smoke and flame
  • Prepare an ‘Emergency Go Bag’ for evacuation (a good reference is CAL FIRE Emergency Supply Kit)

Plan 

3.  Plan what you will do when the wildfire approaches. These should include:

  • Do you have time to leave or will you stay and defend your building?
  • If you stay, how will you protect yourself against wildfires?
  • If you leave where will you go and how will you get there?
  • What wildfire protection equipment do you need based on your decision?
  • What will you do and where will you go if your exit route is blocked? (shelter on the property)
  • What other equipment will you need? (radios, torches, mirrors, whistles etc.)

Actions

4. Actions you take when you can’t avoid the wildfire. These should include:

  • Evacuate to your shelter well before the fire approaches (in Australia, its stated that 60% of fatalities are within 100m of the building)
  • Evacuate to an open space well away from combustible materials as these are likely to burn (beach, public open spaces)
  • Take equipment that will protect you against embers, radiant and direct flame
  • Tell others where you will be (to avoid wasting resources looking for you)

For those areas in Europe that are close or soon to be under attack from wildfires, the immediate focus should be to create and implement an action plan. For those families the wildfires have caught off guard and don’t have a plan, then our message to these people is that “buildings can be replaced but people can’t” and it is recommended the world over to “go early”.  

For those families that are currently not affected by wildfire but are in vulnerable areas, also commonly known as the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). Then there is a lot that you can do, and I will share a summary of best practices from Australia and the United States which can be implemented within a few days to prepare for this current European Wildfire Season.

Further important information can be found at CFA Fire Ready Kit

JamesG

About JamesG

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