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!
Numbers to call for a fire situation
Rural Fire Service & Local Brigade
For up-to-date information on the Rural Fire Service and their links go to their website.
For more on the local Mt Nebo 7 Mt Glorious Rural Fire Brigade se their Facebook page.
Mt Nebo and Mt Glorious Early Warning System
Moreton Bay Regional Council 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.
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
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.
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.
Be conscious about the ignition sources in your home.
Be conscious about your storage of flammable liquids.
Have a fire extinguisher (preferably the dry chemical powder type) handy in the home.
Install a smoke alarm to give yourself ample warning to get out.
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.
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.
For more information go to: https://www.qfes.qld.gov.au/
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 – though risks may now be on the increase with an apparently-changing climate..
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:
Make a firebreak around your home, trim branches well clear of the house. Clean the roof and gutters of leaves and twigs etc, regularly.
Fit wire screens to doors, windows, vents and enclose all gaps, roof eaves and the area under your house.
Keep a ladder handy for roof access (inside and out) and fit hoses to reach all parts of the house (inside and out), and garden.
Obtain a high pressure petrol pump, or generator so that you have water pressure ( the electricity will probably be cut off)
Store wood, fuel, paints etc well clear of the house.
Check you have adequate insurance cover for bushfire.
Decide on a household plan to either leave early or stay to protect your home during a bushfire.
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:
Phone the bushfire brigade – don't assume they know.
Turn off gas and power. Close all external windows and doors, and block gaps from inside with wet towels.
Fill baths, sinks, buckets etc with reserve water.
Plug downpipes with rags and fill gutters with water.
Remove curtains and furniture away from windows,bring external furniture inside.
Wear long, woollen or heavy cotton clothing, solid boots or shoes, a hat or woollen balaclava and gloves.
Hose down walls, garden, etc on sides facing the fire and watch for spot fires from flying sparks or embers.
When the main fire-front arrives go inside, away from windows while it passes (usually 5 to 15 minutes).
Quickly extinguish any fires which may have started in, near, or under the house or roof. Check inside roof too.
If the house is alight and can't be extinguished, move away onto burnt ground.
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
Many residents have dedicated fire tanks holding water for fire fighting. Ensure that you have the correct fittings, to enable fire services speedy access to your water. Contact the Brigade if you are unsure.
(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 some years ago. Local, Bruce Teakle, subsequently wrote a paper on the topic. A fascinating read, it can be found here.
S.J. Pyne, Burning Bush: A fire history of Australia, Henry Holt and Company (1991).
An extensive discussion of the natural and human history of fire in Australia, its relation to flora, fauna and early inhabitants, and related public policy on fire control in Australia.
J. Webster, The Complete Australian Bushfire Book, (1986).
J. Webster, The Complete Bushfire Safety Book, Random House, Australia (2000).
Incorporates CSIRO research on fire behaviour gleaned from 1983 fires and other research, discusses basic fire behaviour, how it affects homes, and how to protect homes in bushfire prone areas.