DANGER: The NSW Rural Fire Service said while the preferred and safest option is always to leave, and leave early, there are times when residents get trapped and must seek shelter.
DANGER: The NSW Rural Fire Service said while the preferred and safest option is always to leave, and leave early, there are times when residents get trapped and must seek shelter. Ian Martin

Tips to survive a bushfire if you get trapped at your house

IF YOU are trapped at your property with a bush fire approaching, there are a number of steps you need to take in order to try and survive.

A NSW Rural Fire Service spokesman said while the preferred and safest option is always to leave, and leave early, there are times when residents get trapped and must seek shelter.

"If a fire hits suddenly, unfortunately the safest last-resort is for people to shelter in place," he said.

"This can happen if it is too late for people to be on the roads or when the fire behaviour is too erratic."

He said sheltering in place, such as a home, can be physically and mentally demanding, and can be an extremely distressing situation.

"It's important that everyone knows exactly what to do if a fire happens," he said.

"A bush fire can be a terrifying situation.

"Strong gusty winds, intense heat and flames will make you tired quickly. Thick heavy smoke will sting your eyes and choke your lungs. It will be difficult to see and breathe.

"The roaring sound of the fire approaching could be frightening. Embers will rain down, causing spots fires all around you. Power and water may be cut off.

"You may be isolated, and it will be dark, noisy and extremely demanding both mentally and physically."

If you are forced to shelter in place, the NSW RFS has a number of steps you must take:

Before the fire arrives

OUTSIDE

  • Turn off gas mains and/or bottle.
  • Move flammable items away from the house.
  • Block drain pipes with socks full of sand and fill gutters with water. Don't get on the roof to hose it down.
  • Move animals to a well-grazed or ploughed area away from the house and wind.
  • Patrol the house well before the fire arrives to put out embers and spot fires.
  • As the fire approaches, wet the side of the house and garden that faces the fire.
  • Move your firefighting equipment to a place where it won't burn inside.

INSIDE

  • Close doors, windows and vents.
  • Fill baths, sinks, buckets and bins with water.
  • Confine pets to one room.
  • Place ladder next to roof access hole so you can check for spot fires.
  • Soak towels and rugs and lay them across external doorways.
  • Move furniture away from windows.

During the fire, or as the fire is upon you

  • If flames are on top of you or the heat become unbearable move inside until the fire front has passed. This usually takes 5-10 minutes or longer.
  • Patrol the inside of the house, including roof space, looking for sparks and embers.
  • Shelter in a room on the opposite side of the house from the approaching fire and ensure you have clear access to an exit.

Immediately after the fire has passed

  • Check the house both inside and out for fires, including roof cavity, under the house, deck, stairs, windowsills etc.
  • If possible, and safe to do so, check all your neighbours are okay.
  • Contact relatives or friends to tell them you are safe.
  • Patrol your home for several hours, looking for small fires and burning embers.

The NSW RFS advises residents if you have any doubts about your ability to cope, you should plan to leave early, well before a fire reaches your area and well before you are under threat.


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