Trip planning to cope with bushfires

All trips to areas with potential bushfire risk should incorporate realistic planning to cope with fires. This needs to be done at a number of levels:

  • general pre-trip planning
  • specific planning during the trip
  • detailed planning should a fire be suspected or encountered.

Pre-trip planning

General pre-trip planning for fires involves similar considerations to emergency evacuation or escape routes in the event of injury, illness or other serious difficulties. For each point along the intended route, the best escape route options need to be considered, including:

  • retracing your steps
  • exiting via a side route
  • proceeding forwards.

In the case of fire, the prime considerations will be:

  • the likely direction of winds which may be fanning a fire
  • the steepness of the terrain
  • the amount of protection form fire offered
  • the quantity of undergrowth, tree cover and other fuel
  • the likelihood of encountering fire-fighting or other personnel who could aid in evacuation
  • where your own vehicles are parked.

Remember, fires burn upwards, and so will often race up hills, but will move much more slowly down hills.

Planning during the trip
While on the trip, pre-trip planning can be applied to a greater degree of detail, when the specific terrain, fuel loads and wind direction at the time are known. This involves posing questions such as:

  • From which direction would a fire most likely come?
  • What shelter is available, and how would we reach it?
  • Is a change in wind direction likely—if so, to what direction, and what impact does this have on evacuation plans?

Planning if a fire is encountered or suspected
More detailed planning is essential should a fire be suspected or encountered, or if the probability of fire is perceived as high. As well as the issues noted above, planning should also include searching for areas that provide good shelter or cover from a fire such as open areas, cuttings, dugouts, quarries or other areas with reduced fuel loads.