UOW research to better assess house fire risk ahead of bushfire season

A study by researchers from the University of Wollongong has pointed out that adequate planning could save people’s lives and better protect their homes from bushfires

Written on 15 September, 2021
Tanaya Das

A study by researchers from the University of Wollongong has pointed out that adequate planning could save people’s lives and better protect their homes from bushfires.

The research paper titled Comprehensive examination of the determinants of damage to houses in two wildfires in eastern Australia in 2013, published in the scientific journal Fire, focused on two powerful bushfires – Linksview and Mt York – that destroyed 200 houses in the Blue Mountains area of New South Wales in October 2013. Until 2019, these had been the most impactful bushfires that happened in NSW. The scientists thoroughly analysed 85 risk factors that influenced the impact of fire on the property.

The most important factors (on top of weather and topography) were whether the house was defended against the fire and its proximity to the nearest forest and the nearest burnt house. The Director of Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfire and lead author of the research paper, Professor Owen Price said, “Every year wildfires continue to destroy buildings in fire-prone regions in Australia, we’re revealing the best methods of preventing damage.”

The Director of Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfire and lead author of the research paper, Professor Owen Price
The Director of Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfire and lead author of the research paper, Professor Owen Price

“We found that the worst-placed houses are western-facing, without defensible space (where landscaping, plants, or other things that fuel fires are set away from the building) and have other burnt houses nearby. These properties are 10 times more likely to be impacted in a fire.”

“Additionally, plants growing over the house and the presence of lawns and artificial fuels, such as fences, can influence a house destruction.”
Professor Price highlighted that adequate preparation and making a smart bushfire plan ahead of the summer are crucial for people living in fire-prone areas.”

“Our study reinforces the message from the Rural Fire Service that it is really helpful to get your property ready for the fire season. That means maintaining low-fuel loads in the garden and trying to separate your house from the forest, where possible and practical.”