“The frequency of days when extreme fire danger threatens will increase by
up to 25 per cent by 2020, and up to 70 per cent by 2050.”
– “Climate change looms large as Australia swelters”,
New Scientist, Andy Coghlan, January 2013
These days, with Black Saturday still firmly imprinted in my mind, I plan my hiking and camping trips with far more caution than I used to.
If the scientists have got it right, these kinds of major fire events will be happening more and more in future bushfire seasons. This isn’t good news for anyone with a passion for camping, hiking, or any other outdoor pursuit.
When you’re as passionate as most outdoor enthusiasts are, staying inside isn’t an option. Personally, I’d go completely freaking insane. The best we can do is to plan carefully and be prepared for any possibility.
Read on for some tips that will make for a safer trip…
- In the days before your trip, monitor the weather forecasts and fire risk at your destination, to make sure it’s safe to go. Never rely on any one source of information for update information on fire risk. It’s your responsibility to be aware of conditions. Don’t rely on someone to tell you when to cancel or cut-short your trip. Victorian resources and contacts are listed below.
- Consider packing a battery-operated AM/FM radio, so that you can stay up-to-date on the conditions once you reach your destination by tuning into the emergency broadcasters including ABC Local Radio, commercial radio and designated community radio stations even if there is no mobile-data reception.
- Sturdy shoes, long-sleeve shirts and long-pants are the other essentials. Clothing made of natural fibre is best. Many people also pack a fire blanket. If you’re car camping, bring enough water and food to last 3 days, just in case a fire cuts off access roads.
- Familiarise yourself, as much as possible, with the area you’re travelling to and any possible escape routes. Check the Parks Victoria website for information on any access roads, walking tracks, or whole areas that are closed.
- When you arrive at your destination, visit a local tourist information office or Parks office to find out what they know about current fire danger. Ask if they can offer any advice on what to do in case of fire.
- At the campsite, take note of any large bodies of water or clearings where you may be able to shelter in an emergency. Make a plan with your group, agree on it, and be ready to put it into action.
- About 10 percent of bushfires in Victoria’s parks are started by campfires. Make sure you always extinguish your campfire completely before leaving it. It isn’t safe unless it’s cool to touch. More importantly, never light a fire on a day of total fire ban, or when the weather is hot, dry and windy. It’s a good idea to check what you can and can’t do on days declared a Total Fire Ban.
- If you’re camping near other people, get to know them. You’ll be able to share information and safety plans, and keep an eye out for each other if there is an emergency situation.
- Relax and enjoy yourself, but stay alert for the smell of smoke, and the sound of emergency vehicles. The best plan is to leave long before the fire is anywhere near you. Once it’s close, it may block access roads, and smoke will make driving extremely dangerous.
- Take advantage of the resources available. In Victoria, there’s a variety of ways to stay informed, including:
Don’t let the possible threat of bushfires put you off a going bush. With the right planning and preparation, we can continue to enjoy the outdoors as we always have.
Do you have any bushfire safety tips to add? Or any experiences to share? If you have anything to say, please let us know by commenting below.