Lesson #1: Fire Safety

Farmer Bob and I now have the keys to the farm. December 10th we took our first truckload up. We are both giddy like two kids on… well Christmas.

Idealistically well intentioned, we started moving boxes into the new rooms.  Those first packed, carefully labeled boxes – kitchen dishes – kitchen small appliances – kitchen linens – bedroom clothing – followed by the rest of the boxes labeled – Misc – packed when I was well and truly over packing.

* handy tip: label the top of the box as it’s easier to see when stacking boxes *

We moved in on a series of days where the temperatures hovered around 35C/95F to 43C/110F. It was HOT and we were unpacking. The conversation quickly turned to  bushfires. It’s hard to escape the reality that, if you live in the country you live in a bushfire prone area. We talked about it, made plans as to what we would do in the event of a fire and downloaded a great app called Fire Ready  from the CFA.

Well intentioned but naive. We talked about garden beds, heirloom tomatoes, worm farms, beekeeping,  sustainability, solar, chickens… but not the negative reality of dry summers and bushfires.  We had the conversation, but weren’t living it yet. On paper, we thought the farm was reasonably safe:

  • we are on the crest of a valley with reasonable visibility of the surrounding land
  • we have water on hand from a dam, a bore and tanks
  • we don’t have dense bush surrounding the house and we have well maintained but green gardens to act as a fire break.

When we started unpacking and the Fire Ready app notified us of bushfires in our immediate area it became real. We were unprepared. We had no fire extinguishers for the house, no smoke detectors, no bag packed with the emergency items, no hose long enough to wet down enough area near our house, no lawn mower capable of keeping the paddock grass in check. Worse yet, we didn’t plan for the fire preparation expenses as part of our ‘move to the country’ shopping list.

As the wind gusted and the temperature continued to rise I got more and more nervous. We no longer felt as safe or prepared as we did in the city. Farmer Bob is the kind of guy who likes to be prepared. When the Fire Ready app notified us of a grass fire 29KM away, we hopped into the car and went into town to see what we could do to arm ourselves better.

We went out and came back with a fire extinguisher for the kitchen, smoke detectors, fire blankets, hoses and a fire pump. The hoses can link up to an ancient but ridiculously effective sprinkler to dampen the area around our home in the event of a grass fire or airborne embers. Good.

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Big Bessie the Fire Pump

Now what to do if we can’t leave and have to defend – this is where the pump comes into play. We were lucky enough to find a second, disused bore right near the house disguised as a picturesque dome of concrete. When opened, it is a 3M wide by about 6M deep well with a water depth of 3M. We can pump straight from that or, if for some reason it is dry our tanks or the house bore. That’s a start to a fire plan.

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One beautiful but still scary side effect of the smoke in the air is beautiful sunsets.

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