Frequently Asked Questions
In this section you will find a number of frequently asked questions, answers and links to other useful resources.
Frequently asked questions
Q: Would more hazard reduction burns be the best way to reduce bushfire risk?
A. Apparently not, as seen in the terrible Black Summer bushfires of 2019/20 there were many accounts by RFS firefighters of previously burnt areas catching alight again. The extreme conditions seen during the 2019/20 fires season tend to reduce the efficiveness of hazard reduction burns less. The former NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitsimmons who was in charge of the RFS during the crisis stated that hazard reduction burns are “not the panacea” to bushfire risk.
Evidence has shown that increasing the frequency or area of controlled burns does not reduce the risk of bushfire. Also controlled burns or hazard reduction burns are themselves risky, controlled burns have in the past escaped containment lines and destroyed houses. This happened in Margaret River, WA in 2013 and Lancefield Vic in 2015. Smoke from controlled burns also have serious impacts on human health. A range of studies have also shown that reduced fuel loads do little for bushfire mitigation under extreme fire weather and in times of drought.
Going forward climate change is making bushfire frequency and extent in Australia worse, and the window of opporunity to do controlled burns is shrinking. This means communities living in bushfire prone areas need to adapt and find ways to make their homes and behaviour resilient to bushfires.
(Adapted from article published in The Conversation: A surprising answer to a hot question: controlled burns often fail to slow a bushfire)
Q: I live next to some bushland and I need to replace my old timber-framed windows with better fire rated ones. Will I qualify for a Bushfire Wise rebate? The terms and conditions say something about DA work is not allowed.
A. Replacing your old windows is a great idea, it will definitely help lower your homes bushfire risk. The good news is that you will qualify for a rebate as the development application (DA) you need is specifically for your replacement windows. On the other hand, bushfire rated windows or shutters in a new home or extension would not qualify as they would be required by legislation. Rebates will not be given to bushfire related works that required to comply with either BASIX or development application compliance.
A good rule of thumb is this: If legislation is making you do bushfire related work then it does not qualify. If you want to make your existing home safer then it probably will. If in doubt you can always Ask an Expert, click the green tab at the side of the page.
Q: We live right on the bush so when we have a catastrophic danger rating day, can we use our garden hose to fill our gutters and water down what needs watering for safety? Or would we still be fined since we are in water restrictions?
A. Excellent question. You can only use the hose if there is an imminent threat to you house due to fire, so on a catastrophic fire danger day you cannot pre-emptively fill your gutters or wet down landscaping.
Q: If I perform additions / extensions to my home located in a bushfire zone, do I have to replace my wooden paling fences ?
A. Generally no, although if your proposed renovation/extension requires a DA it is always possible that the consent authority may stipulate replacement of a timber fence as a condition of consent. That being said, it might be a sensible option to replace a timber fence with non-combustible material anyway – just make sure you’re familiar with the Exempt and Complying Development Codes and what you can and can’t do without Council consent.
Q: I live in a bushfire zone and I’m not sure what happens if my house gets damaged in a bushfire. How do I know what my options are and if my policy is right for me?
A. There are quite a few things you need to know about home insurance that can make a big difference to how you recover after your house is damaged or destroyed in a bushfire.
For example, you need to be aware of your level of cover, the conditions of your policy, how your home contents are replaced, timescales involved and additional benefits.
As usual in life, it’s the details that are very important, so it is well worth taking a few moments to read your policy and become familiar with it.
The Bushfire Insurance Guide by the Insurance Law Service will help you understand some key elements of your insurance policy and what to look out for.
Q: I have solar panels and I'm worried about them getting damaged in a bushfire or hail storm like the recent one in Berowra Heights. What I should if they get damaged and how do I prepare them if I know a storm or fire is coming?
A: According to the Clean Energy Council, if your solar system gets damaged it is best to not touch it until your installer has checked as it can be dangerous. If your installer cannot be contacted, you can find a Clean Energy Council accredited installer with this link.
If you know a storm or fire is coming your way you can shut down your solar system as a precaution. Your manual will have a shutdown procedure however, you can find an easy to follow guide here.
Q: I live uphill from a nearby park and have a large eucalypt 3 meters from my house. I’m concerned about the fire hazard this causes. Should this tree be removed?
It is important to note that most trees in Ku-ring-gai are protected and permission will need to be sought before pruning or tree removal can occur. Some exceptions do apply, and these can be viewed at http://www.kmc.nsw.gov.au/Plans_regulation/Environment/Trees
Q: I understand the reasons why it is difficult to do more frequent hazard reduction burns, so what can I do to protect my home?
Step 3 of the Ready Check tool has tips and information on how to protect your home from ember attack. If you have any other questions you can use the Ask a Local Expert button and submit your question.
Q: How would I know if my home insurance will cover the cost of rebuilding?
Your ‘sum insured’ determines how much the insurer will pay towards a rebuild. Building costs are constantly increasing. Also, the higher your BAL, the more your building costs will be. This is because your home may need to be rebuilt to a higher standard. Talk to your insurer about what the right level of cover is for you. You can also use their online calculators to find out.
Check your product disclosure statement to see And get covered early. There are limits on buying insurance once a fire has started. It is worth shopping around to get the right policy for you.
More information – Bushfire Insurance Guide
Q: Why does the government not provide fire hydrant in every property?
Q: How do I know what standard my house has to be built to if I am in a bush fire zone?
Q: What is the BAL rating based on?
Q: I have limited budget – what should I spend my money on?
Q: Who is responsible for maintaining power lines on private property?
Questions to be answered by our experts
Q: What is the best way to mount solar panels in bushfire prone areas? How do I stop embers burning them during an ember attack?
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