Deciding whether to stay and defend or leave early in the event of a bushfire

WA BAL Report understands that for many people living in bushfire-prone areas, their family home is their castle and they are highly motivated to defend it from bushfire. Your home may be a safe place in the event of a bushfire if it is well constructed, maintained and prepared. On the other hand, bushfires are extremely unpredictable and the safety and security of the family is paramount. This means that it may be preferable to leave and evacuate to safety.

It is a challenging decision to make, but an important one that must be considered before the bushfire actually occurs. If you leave too late, you may be putting your family at greater risk than having prepared to stay and defend. WA BAL Report recommends that you identify and agree upon a trigger with your family that will prompt you to leave early, and have a backup plan in place in case you cannot leave in time.

WA BAL Report wishes to provide its clients with some considerations of whether to stay or leave. Factors to consider in deciding whether to stay or leave include:

  • Are you physically fit – defending your home from a bushfire can take several hours. It will be a strenuous and stressful time in hot and smoky conditions. You will also have to spend time preparing beforehand and watching for spot fires following the passing of the fire front. If you are in good physical health, with the mobility and ability to constantly watch your property, you may have a good chance of successfully defending your home. On the other hand, if you have asthma, other respiratory conditions or heart conditions, you may find this a challenge.
  • Consider family members – would your family members be fit and able to assist in defending the home? If your family is made up mostly of young children or the sick or elderly, you must consider how confident you would be in their abilities to cope with the bushfire.
  • Is your home adequately prepared – your home should have been prepared before the bushfire season. You should have formed a minimum 20 metre zone around your home and other buildings that is cleared of all rubbish and materials that may catch alight. If you have not taken the necessary steps to prepare your property beforehand, you are not in a position to stay.
  • Do you have the equipment required – basic equipment will assist you in effectively defending your home. At the minimum, you will require gloves, hoses, ladders, knapsack or garden backpack spray, metal rakes and shovels, mops and buckets and wet towels and blankets. This equipment should have been procured before the bush fire season and be on hand at the start of the season. You should also ensure you wear protective clothing to protect you from the radiant heat, embers and sparks. A long sleeve shirt and trousers made of cotton or wool are ideal.
  • Do you have access to an alternative water supply – during a bushfire, it is likely that mains water and power supplies will be interrupted. You must ensure you have an alternative water supply, including a means of storage of the water. These can include rubbish bins, a bath, laundry tub, sinks, basins and buckets, troughs or ponds or a swimming pool, water tanks or dam. If you are accessing water from a water tank, you will need a petrol, diesel or electric powered pump. If using an electric pump, remember mains power may not be available during a bushfire, so make sure you have a generator.
  • Do you have a clear evacuation route – any plan to leave will be ineffective if you do not have reliable transport, a clear evacuation route unhampered by traffic or debris and a safe destination. You should consider how accessible any escape routes are and consider alternative escape routes in the event the bushfire has compromised the primary escape route.

For more information

WA BAL Report are accredited Level 1 BAL Assessors and are experts at conducting Bushfire Attack Level Assessment Reports and bushfire prevention in general in Perth and Western Australia. For more information, contact our friendly staff on 08 6114 9356 or at

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