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The bushfire issue that needs addressing now

FIRES don't discriminate between bushland and buildings, which is why Ian Weir, a registered practising architect specialising in designing for bushfire-prone biodiverse landscapes is hoping to see less emphasis on vegetation clearing and more of a spotlight on building resilient homes.

He said homes in Queensland did not have to be anywhere near as resilient as those in the bushfire prone regions in other states and the Bundaberg region was no exception.

Dr Weir said homes in Bundaberg would typically be quite vulnerable to bushfire particularly those less than 100m from unmanaged dry sclerophyll vegetation.

"The reason being that Queensland homes only have to be built to withstand a Fire Danger Index of FDI-40 - this equates to only 'Very High' on the roadside warning signs," he said.

"While in Victoria and most of NSW the equivalent homes (same site, same vegetation type) have to built to FDI-100 which is 'Catastrophic' conditions.

"Just south of the QLD/NSW border homes there have to be built to FDI-80 which is 'Extreme'.

"The problem is that actual fire conditions in the Bundaberg region exceed FDI-40 - in fact further north at Seventeen Seventy and Agnes Water the FDI was 100 (Catastrophic) in November 2018."

Dr Weir said about 90 per cent of house loss in bushfires is attributed to ember attack.

In the wake of the current bushfire disaster, Dr Weir said the Queensland issue needed addressing "as soon as possible" where either the FDI level to which homes have to be designed needs to be raised or the standard (AS3959) needed to mandate against the use of combustible materials for the lower BAL levels.

To improve home resilience, Dr Weir said first step is to get a professional Bushfire Attack Level assessment done to define the level of risk.

"Eliminate combustible materials such as timber decking and timber support structures; ensure that fine fuels (twigs less than 6mm diameter and leaf litter ) is managed around a home and that heavy fuels such as timber fences and retaining walls and firewood are all kept well clear of the house," he said.

"Then eliminate any gaps greater than 2mm wide in the roof material wall cladding and underfloor - if it is an elevated house.

Dr Weir said there needed to be better communication of what the Fire Danger Index is and how this affects the ignitability of combustible materials.

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