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fire

edited January 2003 in architecture
With 388 homes lost in Canberra in the last day, it's once again the time of year to wonder about how and where we build in this wide burnt land.

I was in Blackheath, NSW last month, and as the train came into the station, it went through an apocalyptic landscape of charred valleys and black sticks. Occasionally a house stood untouched, having been drenched by those amazing fat helicopters, and having been defended by owners and firefighters on the ground. All at huge cost.

In the last few years regulatory authorities have been tightening the bushfire-prone zone building regs, but the effects of this will not be seen for a while as the revised Australian Standard doesn't apply to existing housing. Even these regs can only guard a house against ember attack. I wonder how many of yesterdays house fires were ember attack and how many were more... immediate.

A startling thing about these recent fires is the distant spotting - flaring of fires up to 12km ahead of the firefront. This seems to mean suburban areas previously thought safe aren't really. Even parts of inner Melbourne are in danger due to the proximity of the Yarra Bend Park to Kew and Abbotsford. I was riding through a burnt patch of the park near Kew last night.

I can see bushfire building methods become mandatoryfor many more buildings than they currently are. Best we get familiar with them - and try to work out how to design with them as they're quite restrictive.

I wonder if the right to build a house on a property in a severe wildfire danger area might also be questioned, given the cost of protecting them during fires.

firemaps:
www.sentinel.csiro.au
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