How to Protect Your Home from a Wildfire

Bushfire, brush fire, forest fire, wildfire -- call it what you will, these fires are a very real part of life in many places. Every summer, we hear of hundreds of people losing their homes to wildfires, losing nearly everything they own. If you want to know how to stay safe and protect your home from a wildfire, follow step one to get started.


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    Evacuate sooner rather than later. The old and very young should be evacuated straight away as the wildfire gets stronger. As a rule, houses with people there to protect them will survive far better than those without anyone.
    • If you have a chance to evacuate when the wildlife gets serious, evacuate straight away. If you cannot evacuate you must stay at your home and strongly defend it. If you're stuck in the middle of nowhere, you'll need to find a place to shelter.
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    Remove hazards from your house.Cut the grass and remove it to a location where it will not endanger the house. Remove timber and remove trees from too close to the house. Leaf litter should also be raked up from the yard and cleaned out from the drains. The yard around the house should be kept clear of fire hazards (eg timber, long grass, etc) throughout the fire season.
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    Take action once you know there is a fire in your area. As mentioned previously, if you do decide to evacuate, do it as soon as possible and if it is possible. You don't want to be on the roads when the fire is near. They are dangerous in the smoke, you may get caught in the fire, and there are a lot of emergency vehicles on the roads.
    • Put you and other people first before livestock. Many people get seriously injured from putting their livestock first. If you have the time, save the livestock. But if not you will need to think about the safety of others in your household.
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    Dress in protective clothing. If you have cotton overalls these are perfect. If not, you need natural clothes (cotton or wool), long pants (jeans are good), a full sleeve cotton shirt, a wide brim hat, leather boots (preferably lace up), eye protection (goggles), something to wrap around your mouth. Be sensible. Cover up, but don't wear a thick jacket or you will die of heat exhaustion. Do not wear nylon. Nylon is made of plastic, and will melt at fairly low temperatures. Nylon burns are some of the worst you can sustain.
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    Check all your taps (inside and out) are working and you have enough water. Also be sure hoses and buckets are nearby and that the hoses are long enough to reach all around your property.
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    Fill up your bathtub and all sinks with water. Also have buckets of water ready to put out spot fires. Pools are also a good source to fill up buckets quickly in the middle of your yard so that you can reach all around your property.
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    Close all windows to prevent embers entering the house. This is how most homes are destroyed in bush fires, so be careful but never lock windows or doors so you all have an easy escape route if the fire does get inside of the house.
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    If you see a fire without fire crews in attendance, call your emergency numbers immediately. These vary across countries, but the emergency number is 911 in America. They are usually three digits in length. Find out what it is in advance.
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    Hose your house down with water (or retardant foam if fire crews are available). This will prevent the fires from coming near your property or spreading.
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    Keep an eye on spot fires. Whilst wearing your protective clothing and having buckets of water nearby, keep an eye on any fires. Be especially mindful of the house as ember can get under the roof, windows, etc.
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    If available, fire crews should be in attendance. However, often they are so thinly stretched they cannot be everywhere. Do not get in their way when they do arrive, follow their instructions.
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    Keep not that just because the fire has passed doesn't necessarily mean you are out of danger. Keep an ear on the radio or TV for fire updates, and stay on the look out for a flare up or a renewed ember attack.


  • There is a chance the fire might be caused by accidental spillage of a chemical. The chance is small but some fires may not be affected by water or certain other extinguishing methods. If these rare fires occur near your area, let the fire team deal with them.
  • Nearly every time a home is lost, the owners weren't there. You will greatly increase your chance of saving your home if you are with it.
  • Investigate using reusable aluminium structure wrap, sometimes called cabin wrap, to protect your roof, eaves, walls, or windows from radiant heat and burning embers. One supplier, makes it in 10 X 50' sizes to cover fast. The US Forest Service has used this material to protect historical structures and lookouts for decades. New large size fire shields wrap your home quickly and can protect against heat up to 1,100 °F (593 °C).
  • Store as much water as possible before the fire (bath tubs, sinks, etc). It will come in useful to put out spot fires, and you don't know if your water supply will be affected by the fire
    • Many people install sprinkler systems around their house to protect against fire. These are good if you have enough water. They are often expensive however.
    • If you receive water from a community source, do NOT turn your sprinklers on unless you absolutely have to. This reduces the water pressure and volume available for the fire-fighters to use when protecting your community. There have been instances where fire-fighters have been forced to let a neighbourhood burn because there was not enough water to defend it due to many people turning on the sprinklers as they evacuated or tried to defend their homes. If your water comes from an on site source (well, spring aquifer, etc.) make sure your sprinklers do not use more water then your pump can provide.


  • Drink water (and only water) religiously. It is easy to dehydrate. When you dehydrate you are a danger to yourself and others.
  • If the fire brigade tells you to evacuate, do it without argument. There is a reason they are asking you to do this so listen to them.
  • Don't do it alone. This is dangerous. What if you get injured and cannot phone help?

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Categories: Fire Emergencies