by Amber Schutz

Mesic habitats and a well-balanced supply of moisture around buildings provide a living defence from bushfire.

As I walk along my street in the early evening, I pass many homes that were destroyed in the catastrophic bushfires that impacted Batemans Bay so dramatically on New Years Eve. With the passing of this crisis I am reminded of the words of Shane Fitzsimons, “the real challenges start now with rebuilding” as Stuart described in his February Blog Rising From The Ashes.

I have had many conversations with other RFS members since the fires started in December, and from those stories, there are some very practical lessons to be learned. Deep mulch on garden beds and piles of timber near houses were problematic for firefighters as they continued to burn despite the amount of water put on them. Plastic water tanks or plastic fittings were unable to be used as they melted. Metal sprinklers on roofs were invaluable to some property owners as they allowed them to evacuate while still providing protection to the house.

The remains of houses in my street

Many of these practical guidelines are captured in the NSW Government’s Planning for Bushfire Protection document and I would encourage anyone who owns or rents property in a bushfire prone area to review these recommendations.

One of the most interesting recommendations that has come to light in recent years is the use of mesic habitats or plant species around buildings to provide a living defence from bushfire. A mesic habitat is one with a moderate or well-balanced supply of moisture. Mesic plants act like sponges and store water in their leaves. They take more heat to dry out and ignite and dense plantings of these species can catch and extinguish embers. The Victorian Government has published a helpful guide to determining if your plant selection is firewise. Keeping these plants healthy and well maintained is also key to establishing a safer Asset Protection Zone. Whilst mesic plantings are not a solution by themselves, they are part of an overall solution to reduce fire risk in our landscape.

At Edmiston Jones we look forward to working with our clients to making their projects safer and more prepared. For more information on how the inclusion of a mesic landscape plan may reduce your fire risk in the future, please contact our Senior Landscape Architect and Director, Stuart.

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