Bushfire 2003Survival in the open when confronted by an intense fire is not easy. A fire can be terrifying, with strong winds, intense heat, flames, and thick smoke. Bushfires are a real and immediate threat to life. Your survival when caught in the open depends on sound judgment and taking appropriate actions.

Avoidance

The best way to avoid danger from a bushfire is to avoid bushwalking during W.A.’s bushfire season which runs from November to April in the southwest and from June to late October in the north of the State.

Mt Cooke wildfire, Jan. 2003 (photo: Kristian Pollock, DPAW)  

Before you leave home for a bushwalk during the bushfire season:

  • Re-read the information on this page;
  • Check the weather forecast and conditions at BOM;
  • Check the DFES Alerts & Warnings, plus Fire Danger Ratings and Total Fire Bans fire restrictions. Also download the EmergencyAUS smartphone app. which also handily captures the DFES Fire Advice warnings, DPAW Alerts and other emergency listings and warnings in the one app. It also gives the distance from your current location to any events. (You can also follow the DFES Alerts on Twitter @dfes_wa.)
  • Tell someone where you plan to go and who is with you.
  • Carry an emergency beacon and save emergency numbers to your phone.
  • Have someone in your group trained in first aid.
  • Avoid synthetic clothing as it can melt and burn skin severely.
  • Carry plenty of water.

If caught walking in the path of a bushfire:

  1. Turn back if you see smoke ahead. Check the EmergencyAUS smartphone app. for possible vital information on the fire, including its location, direction of movement and intensity.
  2. If in mobile phone range call Triple Zero 000.
  3. Don’t panic or try to outrun the fire.
  4. Anticipate fire behaviour (and act accordingly) - Fire behaviour is influenced by three main factors: Type and amount of fuel; the weather; and the terrain.
  5. Move downhill and toward the flanks or back of the fire - As a last resort, you may be able to run through low flames onto burnt ground, but only when you can see behind the flames and know that the fire front is narrow.
  6. Move to a low-fuel area that won't burn (the bigger the better) - e.g. a water body; an area with rocks, hollows, embankments; or a firebreak or roads. Avoid hilltops
  7. Protect yourself from radiant heat (the biggest killer in a bushfire) - e.g. Cover yourself with cotton/woollen clothing (i.e. preferably non-synthetics); get behind a tree trunk or rock; or depression in the ground.
  8. Protect your airways - Cover mouth and nose with a wet cloth. Lie face down and breathe the cooler, less smoke-filled air close to the ground. Drink water regularly to avoid dehydration.
  9. If in mobile phone range update someone on what is happening.
  10. Stay in your chosen shelter until the fire front has passed.
  11. Apply first aid e.g.for burns, shock, smoke inhalation, heat-induced illness.

For additional detailed information see “Bushfire Protection for Bushwalkers – What to do if caught in a bushfire whilst walking in remote areas” by Sue Davies, Regional Officer, Bushfire Services of WA, Nov.1998.