Farms and animals – video transcript
Speaker: Bushfire is an inherent threat in Victoria and all rural and regional properties are at risk. Even on a small rural property it is important to plan and be prepared well in advance of the fire season to minimise the risk and impact of fire on your property and to livestock and pets. Kerry Rollins is the owner of a small property with horses in the Yarra Valley. Kerry worked in recovery after the Black Saturday fires in 2009. As a result of this experience she has been working on implementing better fire preparedness measures on her property.
Kerry Rollins: Well I was heavily involved in assisting animal owners through the Black Saturday fires in February 2009. After seeing what happened and the extreme circumstances of the Black Saturday fires, my first option would be to evacuate where possible.
I don't want to put myself or my animals through trying to survive something like that, so if I can evacuate that's my plan A. If my evacuation and the horses' evacuation is not possible then I've put some plans into place to try and protect them and us as best we can in the event of a fire.
If you can afford to sacrifice a paddock I think one of the best options is to plough a paddock, and that might be something that people on large acreage can do quite easily.
But somebody on small acreage, like myself, who can't afford to sacrifice the grazing area by ploughing it, can set aside small areas to provide the horses with an area that doesn't have as much fuel on it. I've decided to use my arena and do some fencing and provide them with an area that I can protect.
We've been slowly developing our property. We're going to create some additional fencing so I can create my safe area for my horses, but also I'm going to install a couple of rainwater tanks. Now, we're fortunate that we're on mains water here but it's a known fact that during a fire you can't rely on mains water, so having a back-up supply of water such as rainwater tanks is our plan.
I would advise that you would remove any synthetic gear from your horse such as halters, fly veils, rugs. Although we use the term 'cotton rugs', most cotton rugs are a blend of polyester and cotton and they won't offer any protection at all if a fire was to come through your property. I did see a lot of injuries caused by equipment that was left on horses during the Black Saturday fires. A horse without gear on is probably the best option.
I have considered if you do need to use equipment perhaps you would look to use leather halters, non-metal equipment, no metal buckles to avoid any metal burns because the radiant heat will heat everything up to a point where it will actually burn skin and do some damage that way.
The access into our particular area here is really limited. There could be an accident on the road that blocks the road and making access in and out of this area extremely difficult, so if possible I would say to horse owners to plan alternative routes, think about the access in and out of their area.
If the main access is blocked what are the other alternative routes. And if there aren't any alternative routes well then you've really got to have a plan B, you've really got to think about if you can't evacuate what am I going to do. Evacuation is my first choice, but if evacuation is not possible I've got my plan B which is to activate my sprinkler system and to keep my horses in my safe area.
Speaker: Now let's look at some more tips for preparing your property for the bushfire season.
David Stewart: My name is David Stewart, I work for the Department of Primary Industries managing the Small Land Holder Information Service. We are here today to look at a small property and look at some of the issues to do with fire on small properties, and particularly on horse properties.
If you look behind me here you will see a very large row of gum trees, and in this situation on a bad fire day like Black Saturday they represent a very serious risk, particularly radiant heat.
This is a fairly typical fence on a horse property; it's a wooden fence with a couple of wires on it. It's really important that after a bad fire we've still got fences remaining after the fire, and one way to protect your fences is actually spray along the bottom of the fence about 1m wide with a herbicide that's going to kill all the grass.
The time to do that is actually in the late winter months, so when it is actually quite green and short, rather than wait till the springtime. If we do that we are more likely to protect the fence from fires when they do come through and provide a sanctuary or an area on the farm which actually still is intact.
Another issue here is we've got some sump oil on this fence as well. The sump oil is good for keeping the horses from chewing the fence but also provides more fuel for the fire if actually a fire does come through. So all the more reason to have a bare area underneath your fence to stop the grass growing there.
One other thing we're pointing out, this has got an electric fence running through, I'm not going to touch that, electric fences should be turned off on a code red day to just reduce one more risk.
If you look behind me here you'll see a fairly typical hay shed we find on lots of small properties. If you look up at the top of the iron work here you'll see a lot of it a large gap between the roof and the top of the iron. On a bad fire day that's going to represent a very severe risk in terms of ember attack and the embers could easily go in through the top of the iron and set fire to the hay.
This building here is actually a tack room with a stable on the other end of it, and you notice here once again there is a gap between the earth, or the ground level, and the bottom of the floor. Once again this is a potential for ember attack to occur on a property, on any property really, be it a house or a stable, in this case it's a stable. So we need to put some sort of barrier along here that's going to stop any ember attack from getting into the building and setting it on fire.
One way to keep embers out of buildings is to use a metal flywire, that's excellent for keeping those small burning materials getting into your sheds and into your stables. In here we have got some hay which is stored inside the stable. Right alongside me here I have got another stable which could well have a horse in it. This is a stable in behind this wall here, and you can see outside the wall there is a fair bit of material which has the potential to burn on a hot day. So it's a really good idea before the summer to remove that sort of material and make sure that there's nothing there that can burn.
Another thought can be that if there's grass growing along the outside of your sheds and your stables, just spray it off, a bit like the fence line, so there is actually no grass fuel there at the end of the day that can burn on a hot day. Another alternative might be to actually put some gravel around the outside of the shed, so once again there is nothing to actually burn on a bad day.
Speaker: So to summarise, keep the following points in mind when preparing your property for the bushfire season:
- Develop a bushfire plan for your animals.
- Prepare your property.
- Identify safer areas for your animals.
- Do not allow animals access to roadways.
- If you plan to leave, leave early. And, have a back-up plan.
Remember, it is important to be prepared well in advance of the fire season. A well prepared property has a greater chance of surviving a bushfire.
You can find further information about fire planning at the DELWP or Country Fire Authority website or by contacting the VicEmergency Hotline on 1800 226 226.