How to increase your chances of outliving an unexpected Bushfire
Date Posted:30 July 2019
It’s the summer Christmas break, you’ve booked a weekend cabin and are hiking through the Victorian Grampians. The hot Australian sun is beating down on your back and with each step, your feet make an audible crunch on the leaf-littered, stone-dry bumpy track; the result of Australia’s severe droughts of 2018/19.
As you step further up the hill to gain a better view of the magnificent landscape below you, your senses are suddenly drawn to the smell of smoke. As you reach the top, a hot strong wind almost blows you to the side. You hear a loud rushing sound - stronger than a beastly gale; coupled with increasingly fast crackles.
You turn around and get a much stronger whiff of smoke. Not just smoke, but fire. Within a matter of seconds, you see the wind carrying embers towards you. Looking on further into the haze, you see a wall of flame rapidly eating all dry fuels in its sight; bracken and tea-tree, then rushing up the tall trees, nearing its way to you. Kangaroos and birds are fleeing for survival.
You realise you are in a life threatening position. What should you do?
According to Geoscience Australia, bushfires are driven mainly by 3 factors: fuel load (dry branches, natural litter), fuel moisture (drought) and wind speed. This particular hiking example in the Grampians in Victoria during summer is the perfect condition for bushfires.
Summer usually means low humidity, which results in plants being more flammable, along with high temperatures. Slope angle is another large factor that bushfires rely on – radiation and convection preheat the fire fuel source, which results in fires accelerating when travelling uphill.
Geoscience Australia Fact: “The speed of a fire front advancing will double with every 10 degree increase in slope, so that on a 20 degree slope, its speed of advance is four times greater than on flat ground”.
Therefore, you should search for an escape route downhill, preferably an area with the least amount of combustible material, such as a road or even a dam or lake if you’re lucky to see one near-by.
In a situation where you cannot make it to a safe location, you must get down as low as possible; if you have equipment, dig a hole, or just shelter as low as you can and fully cover yourself with a Personal Protective Fire Blanket and wait for the fire to pass you. The fire blanket will significantly increase your chance of survival.
Thermaguard Bushfire Blankets have been scientifically tested and proven to exceed the AFAC specifications, and are used by government fire authorities. It is important to store 1 or 2 in your vehicle when driving through high bushfire risk areas, or when bushwalking etc.