They say that if you are heading into the Victorian bush between the months of October and May you should keep in mind the potential for bushfires.
Why are bushfires fairly common during Victorian summers?
Victoria is one of the worst bushfire affected areas in the world throughout the summer months. Long spells of hot dry weather sap the ground and vegetation of moisture. When this dryness is coupled with strong winds from the north a potentially dangerous combination is formed.
What causes bushfires?
Most bushfires in Victoria are caused by lightning. Hot, dry weather is frequently followed by tropical storm conditions. The welcome change to the heat unfortunately drastically increases the risk of rain starved lands igniting when struck during electrical storms. If you are planning on venturing out into Victoria’s more isolated areas, the most important thing is to be prepared for any potentially dangerous situation.
What should you pack if you’re going bush in Victoria this summer?
We asked Andy Gillham, a Parks Victoria Ranger in Charge to share some advice as to the kind of gear that you should always have with you when heading out into the Victorian bush, no matter your chosen outdoor activity.
There are more than a few common misconceptions surrounding bushfires. Many people believe that bushfires are only deadly because of the enormous flames that scorch the land and vegetation, but the truth of the matter is that if you are caught near a bushfire, it is very unlikely that you will see any flames at all.
Radiant heat and smoke are usually the primary dangers.
Your first line of defence – if it gets to that point – is a durable set of woollen clothing. Natural fibres are key as they provide a good layer of insulation and do not conduct the radiant heat directly to your skin. Andy told us that even when you cannot see the flames, you will need to roll down your sleeves to stop the hairs on your arms singing from the massive heatwave produced by the bushfire.
This one applies to any type of outdoor activity, but in the case of bushfires is even more important. If you are out in the bush with only a pair of thongs, forget about sharp rocks and snakes, if your feet aren’t protected and there is a fire in your area, you won’t be walking very far.
A metal torch (not a plastic one) is durable and not susceptible to heat damage. Ideally it should be waterproof and shockproof as well. You might think you know the area well, but when a bushfire blots out the light of the sun, you are going to be relying on your torch to find your way to safety.
As the smoke rolls in, the day turns to night, and before you know it, you have lost your way. A metal whistle will allow you to signal to rescuers where you are and is durable enough to last.
While you should always make sure that you know your area without the aid of modern global positioning technology, a GPS is invaluable in outdoor environments. Most smartphones already have one, true, but you don’t want to be relying on cellular networks in rural environments. The benefit of a GPS unit is that it communicates directly with GPS satellites, bypassing cellular networks. If you need to get out quickly and you don’t know the area well, a GPS could very well save your life.
Portable radios and satellite phones might seem like simple technology compared with modern smartphones, but in rural locations you don’t want to be relying on a device that has a battery life of 24 hours at best.
Battery powered devices are much more reliable and are your line of connection to emergency services. The whole time you are away you should be checking in for reports as they come over the radio waves. Tune into ABC Rural Radio for reliable and up-to-date reports regarding any disaster situations in your area.
Leave the bush and live
This is by no means and exhaustive packing list, rather it’s meant to give you an idea of some of the items that are specifically useful in the likelihood of a bushfire scenario. Don’t forget plenty of food, water, and extra fuel.
And above all else, you will need a bushfire plan set in place to follow should you be affected by a fire out on your adventures. Andy will take us through the key steps involved in a good bushfire plan in a future video providing you with the knowledge to go exploring country Victoria.
For more information head to the Parks Victoria and CFA websites.