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Australia is getting hotter all the time. The changes are so drastic that new colours have even been added to the national climate gradient weather maps to reflect the potential for as-yet-unseen temperatures. As recent years of devastating bush fires demonstrate, the increasingly arid, hot conditions present huge risks for home owners and property owners who are looking for real estate.
The country has seen numerous bush fires over the past few years, and they’re constantly becoming more severe. Contrary to what you might believe, however, these fires are actually part of the natural ecosystem, so they’re not going away any time soon. Some native species have even evolved to rely on fires as an essential part of their reproductive cycles. Of course, your home can’t really grow back after a fire, so it’s important to scout the territory out before buying any property to settle down on.
Major fires have hit Victoria, Western Australia and other states in the past years, with Victoria’s recent Black Saturday bush fires causing over 170 deaths. Although local and state governments have enacted great response services, you don’t want to have to count on them if at all possible. Instead, pick properties that are less fire-prone.
Assessing Geographic Features
There are a lot of things you can look out for when you’re looking for real estate. Obviously, houses that are actually in flames during your walk through visits should probably be avoided. In all seriousness, however, homes that are on properties that have experienced fires before may still be at risk.
For instance, if you buy a home deep in one of the forests in East Gippsland, you’re probably investing in a higher-risk property. Trees are fine, but homes ought to be located in large enough clearings to keep them from catching fire when surrounding woods do. Flames travel rapidly, and their by-products become airborne easily. All it takes is a floating spark to set a home ablaze, so err on the side of caution.
Also remember that forests aren’t the only things that present a risk. High grasslands and scrubby bushes catch fire quickly as they dry out and burn. Although these flames seem to die out quicker than others, they remain smouldering for a while. The name bushfire exists for a reason, and the rapid spread of conflagrations commonly observed with these types of fuels is worth considering.
Other natural features, however, can work in your favour. Rock outcroppings and barren patches of land can serve as effective barriers when fires pass by. Proximity to the sea and other bodies of water increases local atmospheric moisture. Although recent fires have shown that lakes and rivers serve as ideal survival spots when fires get too close, having them nearby can also delay the encroaching flames for longer.
Taking the Past into Account
It’s important to learn from history’s lessons. While this concept may prompt some people to pack up and move to a houseboat off the coast, that’s not an option for everybody. Instead, take a look at where past fires have struck and where they were most intense.
You can get some very detailed information from past Country Fire Authority (CFA) warnings. These graded warnings let people in different areas know how severely they’ll be affected by a fire that has already started to burn. By reading past notices online and checking out the current CFA warnings, you can get a better idea of how bush fires usually spread and which areas they typically affect along the way.
Building with the Worst in Mind
If you buy a property that seems alright, you can improve its bushfire safety by using the fire-retardant building materials and installing home safety features. Fire suppression and warning systems ensure that you won’t lose everything if a fire does happen, and proper landscaping can help increase the size of the buffer between your home and potential fuel sources.
Remember, the average temperatures aren’t going to be dropping in the near future. The Australian continent is full of deserts and other environments that leach critical moisture away from settled areas. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to live in an underground bunker or move to the middle of the most barren Outback areas where there isn’t any flammable vegetation in order to avoid bush fires. It’s still important, however, to take your time evaluating the factors while you’re looking for real estate.
Glen’s Thoughts: Living in Australia with all the recent extreme heat and devastating bush fires, this is a timely reminder of how good planning can help you avoid a potentially disastrous situation.