Although we live in the Wet Tropics with humid conditions and we’re bounded by rainforest, wildfires can happen here. They may be started through arson (deliberately lit), carelessness (eg discarded cigarettes, sparks from machinery, unattended fires), as the result of an accident or very rarely, as the result of a controlled/prescribed burn. If you light a fire, on purpose or accidentally, you are responsible for controlling it.
If there is a long spell of hot, dry weather and it’s windy, the fire risk increases. Generally the fire season in Far North Queensland is through the winter (“dry” season) and spring months. Information about fire risk and fire danger periods will be issued by fire authorities as required.
You don’t have to live in the bush to be threatened by bushfire, just close enough to be affected by burning material, embers and smoke. For residents of Cairns suburbs near areas of forest or reserves, it is important to include wildfire in your household emergency plan and consider completing a wildfire survival plan as part of your household preparations.
What will happen?
- If a prescribed burn is going to happen near your area, you’ll be told directly ahead of time (eg via letter, property visit).
- If fire danger levels are rising in your area, information will be broadcast on all usual media and websites such as the Bureau of Meteorology, Rural Fire Service Queensland and Cairns Regional Council.
- Fires can move extremely fast – faster than you can run. They can also be unpredictable, for instance changing direction. You may find yourself suddenly in danger. Heat, wind, smoke and burning material blowing around may make it difficult to see, hear or breathe.
- If lives or property are threatened, you’ll receive Advice, Watch and Act or Emergency warning messages.
- An advice message tells you a fire has started and provide general information to keep you updated.
- A watch and act message represents a higher level of threat such as conditions are changing, a fire is approaching, lives may be threatened.
- An emergency warning is the highest level message advising of impending danger and you may hear the State Emergency Warning Signal (SEWS) first. With any fire warning, follow the instructions immediately.
What should I do?
- Keep an eye on the Rural Fire Service website (see contact information at the back of this brochure) when hot, dry conditions exist;
- Keep grass cut and vegetation clear of the property;
- Don’t dump garden rubbish in neighbouring reserves or bush areas
- Move flammable items away from the house, eg woodpiles, boxes, hanging baskets, garden furniture;
- Keep access ways to the property clear for fire trucks
- When warnings are given, act immediately on the instructions provided. Don’t wait. Leave when advised, even if it feels safe where you are at the time. Take your household emergency kit with you. Go in the direction advised for your location.
After the fire front has passed
- Wait until the all-clear has been given by local emergency services before leaving your safe area and returning home.
- Consider using a face mask or similar (eg hanky, flannel)
- Check around the property for live electricity, leaking gas, sewage leaks, hot embers, overhanging trees or branches or structural damage.
- If unsure about the safety of the property, seek advice from local emergency services. Don’t take any risks.
- If you are stranded, hurt or need other help, contact emergency services.