10 tips for safeguarding your lifestyle block from a fire

With heatwaves sweeping through the country, it’s time to brush up on fire safety in rural areas.

Words: Nadene Hall

The massive fires that ravaged forest and farmland south-west of Nelson in summer 2019 got this close to the Mollett family’s home. Only heroic firefighting finally stopped it. But good housekeeping helped to keep it at bay.

Design features of the Mollett’s 2ha block helped to prevent the biggest danger – little flying embers – from catching hold in their landscape. Much of their fencing is steel Y-posts (waratahs) and wires, as embers can ‘jump’ from wooden post to post.

They also followed many of these Fire & Emergency NZ tips:

1. Don’t have plants or bark gardens beside or near the sides of your house;

2. Grow low-flammability plants close to buildings;

3. Keep space between shrubs;

4. Prune canopy tree branches 2m above ground, space canopies 3-6m apart, and clear out undergrowth;

5. Regularly sweep up leaves, dry twigs, and other fine material – embers are likely to be blown into the same areas where leaves accumulate;

6. Make sure embers can’t blow under your house, particularly if you store timber or flammable items;

7. Store firewood well away from the house, not up against it;

8. Be conscious of flammable items around your house, such as doormats, dog bedding, and outdoor furniture. If a fire could get close, move them inside;

9. Avoid having native grasses or pampas near buildings;

10. Clean gutters regularly – don’t allow dried leaves to accumulate.

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NZ Lifestyle Block This article first appeared in NZ Lifestyle Block Magazine.
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