Trees have something of a dual nature when it comes to bushfire. While it is true that trees provide fuel for bushfires to burn, they can also be used to shield against wind, absorb radiant heat, and to filter embers and other flying debris, when located at a safe distance from the house. If you have existing trees close to the house, make sure you are aware of how they might affect your movement during a bushfire. If a tree is likely to impact your ability to move around safely then it is recommended that you remove, destroy or lop the tree.
- Choose tree species that have favourable flammability characteristics.
- Choose species with favourable barrier-forming attributes. These can be used as Screen plantings to protect the home from embers, heat, flame and wind attack.
- Remove low hanging and damaged branches – these are vulnerable to ‘laddering’ and wind.
- Remove loose bark, dead leaves, twigs and branches from the lower reaches of the tree.
- Keep the area under the tree clear of leaf litter and other flammable material.
- Separate large trees to minimise the spread of fire. If you are building near established vegetation, fell individual trees (if possible) to create gaps between plantings – this will help break the spread of fire.
- Keep trees away from buildings, water supplies, powerlines, accessways, egress routes and defendable spaces –trees and tree limbs can fall during a bushfire, damaging property and causing loss of life. As a rule, trees should be at least 1.5 times their mature height away from buildings and other vulnerable elements, such as pathways and secondary places of shelter.
- Avoid species that shed debris (such as leaves and bark) during the bushfire season.
- Avoid trees with loose, flaky, stringy or ribbon-like bark. These barks provide a ladder for fire to spread to the canopy, and when dropped they are a dangerous source of fine fuel which can spread fire along the ground.
- Avoid species which retain dead foliage after pruning.