Australia has been in the grips of a heat wave in the past week or two with fire risk across the country. If you’re wanting to enjoy some family camping outdoors, then it’s super important that you understand the basics of bush fire safety for campers. With National Parks recently closed, and total fire bans across most of Australia, there have still been reports of travellers putting themselves in fire danger.
Camping during summer is great, but it’s important that you understand what to do if a fire threat occurs. It’s also important to know how to prevent starting an accidental fire at your campsite.
Bush Fire Safety Preparation For Campers
- Check for current fires: Using websites such as Landgate Fire Watch will help you track current fires burning in the areas you wish to camp in. They also list a range of other bushfire information services on their website below the current fire map.
- Be aware: While driving through the bush it pays to be aware of your surroundings. If you’re heading to a remote area or dry bush land and it’s a hot day, then the chances of a fire increase dramatically. Keep a look out for smoke, talk to rangers if you see them in camp areas or National Parks and check any signs that may reflect current fire danger risks.
- Carry suitable supplies: While singlets, shorts and swimmers are generally common camp gear, if you find yourself trapped in a bush fire area in the middle of summer, these clothing options will put your life in danger. Even in the hottest weather, you need to be prepared by carrying with you; long pants, a long sleeved shirt, hat and gloves made from natural fibres, along with glasses and boots. Wearing these items helps to protect your body from the deadly radiant heat that exists during a fire. Carrying a woollen blanket and plenty of water is also a great idea.
This may sound over the top, but the reality is, if you’re camping on hot days, in a region that has the possibility of being affected by fire, these items could save your life.
- Tell someone where you are going: If you’re heading off into bushland to camp, then let someone know exactly where you are going and for how long. In times of fire, communications can be cut from areas making it impossible for you to make contact in times of an emergency.
Basics of Bush Fire Safety For Campers.
- Is there a fire ban? It’s your responsibility when you’re camping to find out if there is a total fire ban in place. If there is, you will not be able to have a camp fire, or any naked flame. This needs to be taken very seriously, as it only takes one small mistake or disregard for the laws to cause major bush fires that threaten life and property. You can find fire ban details at the fire authority in your state.
- Preparing and lighting a camp fire: When you light your camp fire, make sure you do it in a cleared area or a dedicated fire pit. Do NOT place rocks around the edge of your camp fire as they can explode!
- Try to leave at least 3 metres between your fire and camp gear, and in a windy area try to keep the fire sheltered so not to blow embers onto bedding and supplies.
- Do not use liquid fuels such as fuel to start your fire. Use kindling and bunched paper instead.
- Safety Supplies: Have a fire extinguisher or water close by in case of emergency.
- Extinguish your camp fire correctly: Be sure to extinguish the fire correctly with water, ensuring that the entire fire is cool to the touch and well doused in water before you leave the area. It only takes a small amount of wind and a single ember to reignite a fire.
If You’re Caught In A Bush Fire While Camping
- Leave early: If the worst happens and you’re caught in a bushfire while camping, if it’s safe, the best thing you can do is leave early. If this means leaving some of your gear, and the fire is especially fierce, then just like people need to evacuate their homes, leaving gear behind could save your life. Stick to main roads and tracks to increase the chances you’ll be able to escape quickly and safely.
- Find a safe location: If you need to stay, then find a large open space, or already burned out area and stay there.
- Staying safe in your vehicle during a bush fire: If you need to stay in an area and fire is approaching and you’re in your vehicle, then park your vehicle off the road in a clearing as best you can. Turn your lights on, leave your engine running, if you can, make a clearing around the car, close all doors, windows and vents, get down as close to the floor as you can, and cover all exposed skin (preferably with a woolen blanket or natural fibre clothing). Drink plenty of water before the fire reaches your car, and stay down and under cover until the sounds of the fire have gone.
It is always safer not to be in a bush fire danger area, so travel smart and take care.