Advice from veteran firie Dusty Cordell after our worst fires

Advice from veteran firefighter after worse fire event ever

Veteran firefighter and farmer Phillip 'Dusty' Cordell is asking people to rethink some of their bushfire preparations after the worst fire event Australia has seen.

"I have had over 36 years as a RFS firefighter and attended some of the worst fires in our country, and this fire event is the worst I have seen so far," said Mr Cordell.

"As a young boy, I was taught how to burn large areas by hand without any water and have continued to learn ever since. To say I live, sleep and dream fires is an understatement and those that know me will agree.

"I have studied fire behaviour and science and have invented many great ideas over the years that are cutting edge, but what I keep seeing over the years is the real lack of understanding and preparation by people living in bush areas."

Mr Cordell says he drives past properties every day where he reckons the owners are unprepared and complacent.

"When I approach the owners and ask them how do you think you would go in a bush fire? they believe that they would be fine. I don't think so. It's not that I think these people are fools, it's just a lack of understanding of how fires behave and for some just plain laziness and putting things off for another day thinking they will have plenty of time to prepare when the fire is near," he said.

"A large forest fire creates its own wind and weather conditions and can spot embers up to 30kms depending on the current weather conditions. These embers can land in your backyard and what should have been hours to plan can be a matter of minutes. Then the panic starts and the thinking goes out the window.

"With much of the population wanting to live in forested areas, they need to fully understand how the amount of trees and bush with dry under growth, all adds up to atomic radiant heat that spews out tons of hot embers all around the property and the hotter the fire the more wind moving it extremely fast spotting ahead and leaving people trapped.

"As studies around the world have shown, 99% of homes are lost through ember attacks. If I came to your home and flicked a lit match on a hot windy day around your house or property how do you think you would fair. Is there anything that could catch and burn?"

He said most people could look around and see things they never thought of, like dead grass 300mm high near the front steps or the open window with a curtain behind, the cardboard boxes sitting on the front veranda, the dogs bedding, cushions on deck chairs and the open shed or garage with numerous combustible items just waiting for an ember to blow in, dull embers will grow very quickly and catch anything they can, alight. Leaves in the gutters and under the eaves or any small opening is all it needs.

Mr Cordell has witnessed farmers who have ploughed around their house and shed yet leave two metres of dry grass and other materials that an ember can blow into and while they are trying to move stock or fighting a fire on their boundary, behind them their home is burning because they didn't take into account the whole picture.

"As land holders we need to be self-efficient and prepared such as our forefathers were. They never had phones, fire trucks, helicopters or house insurance. They looked out for themselves and prepared for the natural summer infernos. Now with more people living in the bush or towns right on the edge of major forest belts we need to be more vigilant and prepared," he said.

"The rule of thumb is: no ground fire no crown fire, so by removing all the dead grass and undergrowth around your home and sheds and having water pumps and hoses ready will give you a very good chance to help us save your home should you decide to leave early. Perhaps you should look at joining the Rural Fire Service," added Mr Cordell.