Landforms and earthworks can be effective barriers against bushfire

Landforms can be naturally occurring, such as hills, ridges, slopes, and gullies, or artificial such as earth mounds, earth retaining walls and terraces. Regardless of its origin, landforms (if properly managed) can provide an effective barrier against bushfire attack.


  • Use non-combustible materials, such as stone or mounded earth when building retaining walls.
  • If possible, use earth mounds, cut-and-fill construction or terracing on sloping land to deflect flame, radiant heat, and wind-driven embers away from the house. These landforms can be very effective against fire burning uphill.
  • If building on a steep slope, consider installing steps and pathways around the perimeter of the house. This provides a small fire break and can aid in defending the house during a bushfire.
  • If building underground, ensure that exposed elements such as vents, skylights, and doorways are built using appropriate fire-resistant materials.
  • Consider how you can manage or adopt existing landforms to block or deflect flame, heat, embers and debris. Some landforms, such as ridges and steep slopes can increase your bushfire risks so make sure to manage these appropriately. In most cases, it’s best to consider the role of landforms and earthworks early in your build (see Siting and design).


  • Do not build on a steep slope without managing the bushfire risks this poses.
  • Avoid steep pathways and egress routes. Visibility will be significantly reduced during a bushfire and steep walkways are a potential hazard in and of themselves. Aim for level or gently slopes.

A stone retaining wall in a backyard, with a neighbouring house in the background

Terracing can block and deflect embers and radiant heat away from buildings (source: fotobycam/Shutterstock)