Fire

Contents


Many heavily forested areas of the Range present obvious fire dangers under certain conditions. Fire awareness amongst residents themselves, and community support for and compliance with the local Rural Fire Brigade are therefore important. Your life and property may one day depend on it!

Mt Nebo/Mt Glorious Rural Fire Brigade

Current Office Bearers:

Mt Nebo Fire Warden: Terry Bradford (32898181)
Mt Glorious Fire Warden: Bob Snowdon (32900150)
Secretary: Daphne Elsey

The Brigade

The Mount Nebo Mt Glorious Rural Fire Brigade is a volunteer organisation and does not obtain any direct funding from government. Subscriptions have been set at $15 per property-a rate unchanged for many years. We do not receive the subscription via the Council Fire Levy set at $25 per property and so are dependent on community support to enable us to continue our work. If you have not received your subscription notice then please contact me. All non ratepayers are asked to donate towards this worthwhile community activity, as the Brigade is a benefit to all residents on the Mountain and not just a few. Subscriptions and donations can be made out to Mt Nebo/Mt Glorious Rural Fire Brigade and posted to The Treasurer, Mt Nebo/ Mt Glorious Rural Fire Brigade, c/- Post Office, Mt Nebo or put into the donation box at the Post Office. If a name and address is included then a receipt will be issued. All contributions are tax deductible.

The Brigade requires a large team of competent volunteers so that we are always able to quickly turn out enough personnel to an incident. Currently we rely heavily on a core of approximately 30 individuals. The brigade needs new members! Any one over the age of sixteen can join the Brigade and become part of this pool of resources after a period of training. The time commitment is small, just a couple of hours every month, but this commitment could help to save your home or your life. If interested please contact Daphne (ext 8319).

Thank you to the members of the community who are keeping their blocks maintained and reducing the fire risk to their property.
 

Numbers to call for a fire situation

In the unlikely event of no answer and if you do not have the numbers of other Brigade Officers or my number (ext 8319), then call 000.

(Thank you, Daphne Elsley, Secretary.)

Mt Nebo and Mt Glorious Early Warning System

Moreton Bay Regional Council in conjunction with the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service have developed and built an Early Warning System for Mt Nebo and Mt Glorious. The system includes a three-phase siren warning system and an emergency callout database of phone numbers of local residents who wish to receive warnings of fire emergencies through their telephone.

Those wishing to list their phone number on the emergency callout database should call the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service on 5420 1333.

Fore more information on the three-phase siren warning system and emergency response options and actions, you can download the handout made available to Mt Nebo and Mt Glorious residents describing the siren sounds, what each siren sound signifies and associated actions here.

Reducing fire risks in the home

(Rod Nicklin, Mountain News, May & August 1997)

Two years ago [i.e. 1995] Mt Glorious fire-warden Rod Nicklin was woken from deep sleep at 2 am by a phone call from a lady who said there was a fire next door. This was in a house near Maiala restaurant. The occupant had been using candles for lighting (the house had no electric power) and had gone to sleep while sitting in the living room. A candle dripped onto a table and cloth which caught alight. He was woken by the fire. By this time the room was well alight. He burnt his hands trying to put the fire out. Even the TV was burnt. Luckily another neighbour was able to get a hose going, and although only a trickle it helped control the fire. Rod took a large extinguisher and the fire was contained. Ten minutes later the boys arrived with the fire trailer. Half an hour later the Samford brigade turned up.

Without prompt action by neighbours and by Rod Nicklin, this house would have been destroyed. If the occupant had had an extinguisher, he would have helped control the fire himself.

Yvonne Mills had an incident involving a tea candle (often used in oil burners, to perfume rooms or for aromatherapy). Having used tea candles quite frequently, Yvonne was surprised to see this particular candle had become a raging fire in the burner. While there was no damage to Yvonne's house (apart from a blistered surface of the table), people often leave these burning in other rooms or even leave the house while they are burning. In Yvonne's case, leaving the house may have ended tragically. Please take the time to read this article on fire safety in the home.

It is essential that every home should be equipped to take immediate action to put out, or at least contain a domestic fire. While members of the Bush Fire Brigade will certainly assist, their reaction time would at best be at least 10 minutes, during which a house could be seriously on fire. In many situations the fire brigade from Samford or Brisbane might be the only group able to respond, and a house and its contents could be completely destroyed before they arrived.

Common causes of domestic fires are heated fat or oil during frying - it is easy to be distracted while the oil is heating up, and the next thing you know is that flames are engulfing the extractor fan, there is dense smoke in the kitchen and soot on the ceiling. The oil is preheated before it catches fire, and ignition is extremely rapid. A spark from the fireplace can ignite a carpet. One type of immediate action to take is to cover the flames with a fire blanket - even an ordinary woolen blanket can be used. The aim is to restrict access to the fire of air with its oxygen. Rats commonly chew through electric wiring and can lead to fires.

Fire safety in the home

(Notes from a talk at Mt Glorious by Noel Harbottle, Queensland Fire and Rescue Service)

Although there is a well-organized bush fire brigade in Mt Nebo/Mt Glorious, the mountain residents are poorly prepared to deal with domestic fires. Because members of the brigade are volunteers they are not always immediately available, and hence there could be considerable delay for assistance to arrive in the event of a fire in a house. Hence residents must take precautions to prevent fires in the home, and be prepared to take immediate action themselves should a fire occur.

There are three causes of fire - men, women and children. All the fires that he goes to are normally caused by lack of maintenance, general bad housekeeping, or someone making a mistake. People tend to be blase about fire safety in the home, and need to take measures to protect themselves. There are particular hazards of fire in different rooms in the home. Barriers are needed between these and where people sleep.

Lounge and living room: Fires frequently follow a party where there has been smoking inside, and lighted cigarette butts get behind the seats of a lounge.

Open fires may be a problem - he has attended many fires where petrol had been put on a fire which would not burn easily, resulting in scorched eyebrows and a carpet on fire.

Exhaust fans in lounges can catch fire if a motor burns out.

Bedroom: Electric blankets cause lots of problems - if on, and the sheets and blankets are folded back a fire can start.

Electric heaters: Should be switched off, and the plug pulled out. This is especially important where heating is run with off-peak power. If connected and switched on, heaters can come on if you are absent from the home - this happened in a recent fire where the heater was right against the lounge.

Kitchen: This is where most of the nasties start. A dishwasher which is put on before you go to bed may catch fire from the motor. It is enclosed in a cupboard, and the fire can spread before it is noticed. Refrigerator motors can burn out - the bearings can go, and a short circuit can start a fire. Usually motors are noisy for some time before this happens.

Timers on stovers can start fires if they do not shut off after a period.

Heated fat (as, for example, in a chip maker) can catch fire, especially if left unattended.

Laundry: Dryers can ignite nylon if the temperature is too high.

Smoke alarms are intended to place a barrier between you and major sources of fire.

Children's bedrooms: Children can light matches and if a fire starts be too frightened to tell their parents, at least until a fire is well alight. If plastics such as those in a bean bag catch fire, the smoke is very toxic. Being heavier than air, the smoke forms a cloud which works its way down to the floor.

Garages, shed, outhouses. A woman who was mowing the lawn ran out of fuel. So she used a reverse cycle Electrolux to suck petrol out of the fuel tank of the car in the garage. When the fire brigade got there she had lost the Electrolux, the car, the garage and the lawnmower (and most likely her composure). People do not realize that the moment petrol gets to an ignition source it is going to do something. Storage of flammable liquids in this environment is hazardous. Even oily rags can catch fire - recently an angle grinder was used to sharpen an axe; a spark led to a fire half an hour later after the shed was locked. Sometimes this potentially hazardous environment is underneath the house.

Need for a fire safety plan.


Smoke alarms: Now mandatory to be installed in new homes; and they must be hard wired with battery backup. The battery types are cheaper, and are satisfactory if they have a low battery alarm.

Noel attended a fire where the alarm woke the neighbours - the owners had put the ashes from the fireplace into a cardboard box which was placed outside the back door before they left on holidays. It actually took a day and a half to ignite when some wind came up. The back of the house caught fire, which progressed inside the house. Because smoke rises the alarm was set off, the neighbours were alerted, and the fire was contained to the rear of the house. There are many stories about smoke alarms saving the day and saving people's lives. There are also stories of people who died because there were no alarms. Plastic lounges, carpets, chairs generate very toxic gases and smoke, and early warning from smoke alarms can save lives.

How many smoke alarms? This depends on the design of the house. In many houses a single smoke alarm installed in the hall between the bedrooms and the living room/kitchen area is sufficient - where the house is low set on one level. If there is a garage underneath, an additional alarm is necessary, preferably with the two alarms linked.

Evacuation plan: in the event of a fire, children and other family members must know how they should get out and where they should assemble to avoid needlessly having to go back into the house to search for them. Such a plan may seem over the top, but it is not. In a fire with smoke, it may be very difficult to find your way out of the house. The problems can be increased with security locks on windows, and deadlocks on doors. Some homes have security bars inside windows. A new type of mesh on windows allows it to be pushed out (but not pushed in).

Extinguishers: Two common extinguishers are red, but one has a white band. Although they look similar they have very different uses. The red extinguishers with a white band contain a powder and are used for electrical and heated fat fires with their main action being to deprive the fire of oxygen. The red extinguishers without a white band contain water and bring down the temperature of a fire; but if used on a fat fire the water can be converted to steam, expand twelve hundred times and result in a massive fireball that would normally engulf the kitchen. It is therefore most important to be able to identify these extinguishers in an emergency.

Australian Standards, in their wisdom, have colour-coded three different types of extinguishers red, with slight differences. Air-water is plain red, dry powder is red with a white band, and carbon dioxide is red with a black band.

The ideal extinguisher for the home is dry chemical powder - the size varies. A useful size for the home is approximately 1 kilogram. This can be used for a fat fire on the stove. The first step is to cut off the power, and then extinguish the fire.

A fire blanket can also be used, but it needs practice. The blanket is designed to protect you from the fire. It has to be wrapped around the burning pan in order to exclude oxygen. The powder extinguisher is preferable for inexperienced people, but a fire blanket can be used for a person whose clothes are on fire.

The powder can become compacted if subject to vibration as in a car or boat. This requires regular inverting to loosen the powder. But this is not a problem in the home. Once a year the pressure needs to be checked.

Air-water extinguishers reduce the temperature, and are aimed at the base of a fire. They are needed in Mt Nebo/Mt Glorious, especially if water pressure pumps are not working because of a power blackout as may occur during a bushfire.
 

Reducing bush fire risks

[See also The Complete Australian Bushfire Book (1986) by J. Webster, or The Complete Australian Bushfire Safety Book (Random House, Australia 2000)]

Only one house has been burned down in the mountain communities, and this was from a bushfire at Mt Nebo. It was a cottage on Graham Hammermeister's knoll. Lou Hammermeister or Lester Manwaring would remember. It's always a danger according to vegetation types. Although Harland Road is high risk, risk is lower than at Mt Nebo because of creek boundaries, the type of vegetation and prevailing winds. Nebo is high risk because of the dry sclerophyll forest and the direction of prevailing winds. Forestry has reduced risk by cutting a lot of fire lines around the village. In the past a fire starting in the west near the Brisbane river would advance east and reach Mt Nebo/Mt Glorious after two weeks. Around 1954 the old guest house at the top of forestry road was set on fire from the bush. The fire jumped the track. The fire was some 5 km away, but sparks landed on the roof and leaves in the gutters were set alight. At the time there was a 30 knot westerly wind, and there was a crown fire on the Mt Glorious side of Westridge Lookout. Every now and then we get the conditions, but luckily they do not last that long.
 

Bushfire action guide

In bushfires, radiant heat, dehydration and asphyxiation are the main killers. Well-prepared houses resist brief exposure to flames, protecting occupants who may save their homes. Before the bushfire season -

Prevent/Prepare

If a bushfire approaches - Leave or Protect

If you prepare as noted above, unless you have decided to leave early or are ordered by authorities to do so, stay in the house after taking these extra precautions:

Emergency survival requirements

If faced with the dangers of radiant heat from flames, body dehydration and smoke inhalation, emergency protection is possible, even in high intensity fires. Wrap yourself in a heavy, pure wool blanket and carry a flask of water to drink and moisten a blanket corner as a smoke mask. [From Bushfire Action Guide, Emergency Management Australia]
 

Water storage for emergencies

[tanks (add fittings)]
 

Fire Ecology

(Adapted from S.J. Pyne's Burning Bush: A fire history of Australia, Henry Holt and Company, 1991.)

Fire ecology is much studied, especially since the Black Friday fires of 1939. The Stretton Royal Commission into those fires recommended a programme of hazard-reduction burning in Victorian forests and since WWII the behaviour of fire in Australian ecosystems, and its complex relationship with Australian flora, fauna and humans has been the subject of a great deal of research and discussion. Various models for dealing with fire in the various Australian environments compete with one another for dominance and expression in public policy. The main competing proposals are: fire-exclusion (seeking to eliminate fire from our forests - a proposal that was popular in post-war America, and made possible there by that country's enormous resources available to tackle fires); and hazard-reduction burning (long popular in Australia and much debated as to its appropriateness in various environments and from various prespectives, e.g. property protection, ecological effects, etc.).

Fire ecology as a science has been actively pursued in Australian institutions like the CSIRO for over half a century and, some might say, has been pursued by indigenous Australians for millenia. Australia's image as a "fire continent" has risen to prominence as we discover more of this continent's past and its complex depence on fire. It goes without saying that our diverse environments respond differently to fire and must each be treated separately.

Analogous to floods, fire mitigation schemes may protect against mild events and may alleviate some of the worst effects of medium events, but seem impracticable as a defence against severe events. Catastrophic flooding and fire conflagrations appear, from most practical points of view, to be rare events we must come to terms with. Moreover, much heated discussion continues as to the effects of mitigation schemes, both on our waterways to protect against mild and medium level flooding and in our forests to protect against mild and medium level fire.

Teakle on "Fire as a Tool for Bush Regeneration"

A local working party in our community discussed the issue of fire as a tool for bush regeneration in 1993. Local, Bruce Teakle, subsequently wrote a paper on the topic. A fascinating read, it can be found here.

 

Further Reading

Links


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