New fire code for buildings
Over the past few years, Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia have experienced some devastating fires with the unfortunate loss of lives, as well as the loss of pets, livestock and property.
Some of the large fires were deliberately lit. But regardless of how the fire started, once it takes hold, it is unpredictable and can become out of control quickly.
In areas with larger lot sizes, such as semi-rural and rural areas, and vacant lots in residential areas, owners must maintain the land to reduce the bushfire risk to surrounding property. Slashing vegetation on the site or providing a firebreak around the property before bushfire season is required.
Owners of land who do not cut vegetation on vacant land or meet the firebreak requirements of the Bush Fire Act can be fined by local government.
There are now a number of designated bushfire-prone areas in our State in metropolitan and regional areas.
Buildings in these areas must be constructed to reduce the risk of the spread of fire.
The assessment of these buildings is based on a number of risk factors, including proximity to vegetation, type of vegetation close to the building, and the slope of the land.
The construction of a building in a bushfire-prone area places additional costs to the construction of a standard family home.
These costs can vary, however, and can be more than $7000.
If you are considering a tree change, it is important you check the requirements of the local authority for construction in the area, as it is likely there will be additional costs associated with building a new home or renovating or extending an existing one. More clarity on the application of these higher standards is necessary for the building industry and consumers.
Potential buyers must be made aware of the costs associated for construction and management of their land and buildings.
The bushfire-prone areas are not unique to regional WA, but many are creeping closer to the urban fringe.
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services has detailed information on reducing the fire risk of your home, including pruning plans, removing leaf litter, and safe storage of flammable goods. Visit their website at www.dfes.wa.gov.au for more information. Dianne Gilleland is the Master Builders Association’s Mid WestNorth West regional manager.
Bushfires have regularly threatened Hedland residential and rural properties and new building codes for bushfire-prone areas aim to reduce the risks.