It High time we adapt:

It High time we adapt:



Over the years, the building code has adapted for the various areas we live in. Like wise, with the councils and planning permits, dependant on where you live as to WHAT your are and are NOT allowed to construct, plus the manner or materials with which you shall construct it.



Reviewing the set up for my fathers place I noticed something and then had a sudden thought. Beside the shed is an old Besser brick wall that almost in a H pattern about 8 feet high. In a fire, this would provide significant protection especially from radiant heat, with a suitably constructed roof it would also withstand an ember attack as well.



Now, Australia, especially those that reside in the bush or HIGH FIRE RISK Area’s are required to do certain things. In some cases, you must have a minimum amount of water storage capacity, High volume outlets so that the Brigade or MFB may fill up or plug into your tanks, Pumps maybe and certain types of construction.



BUT NOWHERE, do we state, that the individual shall construct as suitable shelter to evac to in the event of a wild fire. NOWHERE.



AND, whats more, its so simple that its fucking scary.


With this you have numerous options, but essentially you can either go DOWN with the BUNKER or Build it at ground level. I favour the ground level unit as it deletes all sorts of issues such as retaining water, ease of access in and out and structurally its far, far easier than trying to hold back dirt, water proof shite on so on.


But stay with me here. A Simple construction, that then has dirt put against the side and rear and a Dirt wall to the front, not unlike a blast shelter, with a roof that will not BURN, perhaps also covered in dirt will provide SIGNIFICANT protection for the occupants. Especially if its in a clearing as well, perhaps with water to it. You would most definitely have water in there in some fashion and maybe a canvas  curtain of some sort as well.




It does not have to be huge and over the top and I reckon people could come up with a cheap modular version that’s readily transportable and easy to be installed. Maybe insurers and councils need to look at this, along with letting people CUT DOWN FUCKING TREES close to their houses. FUCKING TREE HUIGGIN REGULATIONS in a lot of cases STOP you doing significant fire reduction work around your property. But enough of that.




Its not just that simple, the weather, the wind, the fuel on the ground, burning restrictions, perhaps a lack of burning off by gummite, lack of resources and Christ knows what else. Toss all this shit together and on Saturday it created something we have never seen before on such a scale.



23 thoughts on “It High time we adapt:

  1. Good ideas, but…

    …Read about the firestorms that hit Hamburg, Dresden, and Tokyo during WWII. A lot of people were in shelters, safe from the actual flames, but the air was sucked up by the fire and they suffocated anyway.

    That shelter idea is good for protection against tornadoes and cyclone winds, though.

  2. You make some very good points H. It will be interesting to see how pragmatic people get after this. Or alternatively, if the lefties continue their assault on reason. There is an interesting situation around parts of NSW now. Many old leaseholds have been resumed by the government and are now full of tinder etc from lack of use.

  3. There would have been less dead if they had built something like this. It would have lasted at least until the fire burnt the available fuel. I think (and i may be wrong)they used phosperous in dresden and tokyo, so that was the fuel. If this was in a clearing, it would work. not though if you planted trees all around it.

  4. YD, I hear yaon the fire storms, but they were sustained fires, burning for an extended period. People here have survived in cellars and road side calverts. They only need about 5-10 minutes of safety.

    Lerm: Yes, its going to repeat, I have no doubt. I would like to know just what areas have been cleared / fuel reduction burn after the last dose we got. NOT ENOUGH I supect. its simply not suffecient to try and do it ith current budgets. they need to do a BIG Redyuction exercise.

  5. U, Correct mate. A clearing on the property and something realitively simple and cost effecient.

  6. I was born in England, in the back yard of our house was an actual bomb shelter from the Second World War. Your design isn’t that far off what we had. A good idea, and one I think some people may be very tempted with. With or without councils ‘permission’.

  7. I’ve been talking about this with others on another site and everyone’s in relative agreement.

    Dirt is perfect. Heat doesn’t penetrate it. In the open where the most you’ll need to worry about is a fast moving grass fire and away from anything that might fall on ya and possibly with a 5 metre track of concrete around it so the fire doesn’t get THAT close.

    Maybe some of these communities should ‘fire proof’ the local school gym or hall or church or something for people to retreat too.

  8. Darwin residents require a bunker, why not bush fire vulnerable places?
    A guy I know in a bush setting has a collection of classic motorbikes. A bush fire a few years back scorched his shed & he decided he needed better fire proofing. After going around & around with builders, he dug a slot into a hill, dropped a shipping container in the slot, then back filled around it, leaving the doors visible. Not pretty, but it does the job.

    I’d like to see compulsory bukers with a minimum capacity of say 2 X the expected residents of the house. As a buffer for the neighbours / firies etc. IE 3 bedroom house – is likely to have 5 people in it, have a minimum capacity of ten pax.
    Fran Kelly on B’fast radio spoke of community bunkers, I’d like to keep it domestic, so no travelling as that is where many have died.
    Keep in mind that this is not a cyclone shelter where you may have to bunker down for a day or more – fire fronts pass over in minutes.

    As with all building regs it’s a balancing act between the engineers who want to make them bombproof & the builders / owners who want to keep costs down.
    After the storm at “The Gap” in Brisneyland I had a discussion with a building certifier mate of mine (who was a builder before he went over to the dark side) and he spoke of constant compromise and wriggling espescially on the part of the big project builders for whom $ are the bottom line.
    He also spoke about modeling of cyclone rating on houses, all well & good while the structure is “Whole” but as soon as a window breaks or roof steel / tiles lift, drag in the wind leaps tenfold. Then it’s bye bye house.

  9. Havock — I’m way ahead of you. I took one look at the Vic thing, and decided I didn’t want to wait until Taz dried out that badly. I talked to Natalie about it yesterday. She’s not ready to embrace the idea of a shelter because she simply doesn’t think as far ahead as I do. (I have no idea why. Usually I win the big arguments between us by simply waiting two years in silence.)

    We’ve got a grassy slope above the house. No trees, just knee-high ex-cattle paddock and about a thirty degree slope. I figure that means any fire going through there is going to be relatively low, and it’s going to travel very quickly indeed.

    I plan to level a spot in the centre of the slope, and have the dozer push the spill into an easily accessible heap. Next, I figure on collecting a lot of old tyres from the local mechanic, and using them as the basics of an earthen wall.

    You lay the tyres like bricks, and you pin ’em with something like star pickets or reo, and you fill em’ with dirt and pack it down. Then you render over the tyres with a layer of something useful on the interior, and on the exterior, you just pile the dirt up alongside ’em. Massive thermal protection, strong as five bastards, and not ugly because of the exterior earth.

    Not sure how to organize the OHP. Suppose it’ll have to be steel beams across the bearing walls, and galvanized corro on top. If I lay a plastic membrane over that, the corro should survive under 30cm or so of earth piled atop it, no?

    Probably have to put a slab floor in place due to drainage. We get enough rain in winter to turn even a well-packed earthen floor into slop, I suspect.

    Anway. That’s the plan. And I can use it to store beer and wine when I’m not hiding from bushfires.

  10. Funny after seeing a picture of a bunker in the paper, i was thinking exactly the same of the olds place.

    The level ground the house is on was cut out of the side of the hill. Should be simple to cut in further in a small box shape and line 3 sides with besser bricks. Re-enforced roof with half a metre of top soil on top would make a nice garden bed.

    You are 100% correct that this is the time to change the building regs, you want to live in these beautiful areas then you need to accept that there are precautions you must make.

  11. Even simpler design.

    Scrap a hole. Drop in a container and cover. An ideal type is an ex refrigerated unit. Build a containement wall about it – and flood it, like a moat. But the container has to be earth protected – otherwise you oven cook.

    Similar designs are used by fireworks manufacturers.

    A container used to be worth about A$3,000 IIRC

    Two hour fire rating is required for fire escape doors. Also IIRC earth rammed or cement rendered hay bail exceeds that rating scale. Properly compacted haybail will char – so long as air gaps are excluded, its golden.

    The ideal method is to underground the structure. Tyres have been used.

  12. Okay the view form the gorund
    1, You have to ensure that there is a clear space around all buildings that may be used as habitation (this should include schools and commerical buildings and esp factories!!) The clear space should be around 120-180 meters from the furthest extremity of the building.
    2, Basic soil is good, rammed earth is better. Because of it’s thermodynamic properties we should be using rammed earth a hell of alot more in our country areas.
    3, We should stop using bloody evap a/c units. Mainly because they actively utilise water (not a good idea in a drying climate) but also in bush fires they often act as a direct conduit for embers (unlike reverse cycle units).
    4, Owners of blocks in the country should be forced to clear their land on a yearly basis (this should be including both state and federal gov’s).
    5, The federal gov needs to spend money on good surveillance planes or UAS’s to help track and spot fires. No I’m not just saying this as they’re dual use. We know that fires break out and some are deliberately lit. The police can’t track these people but by using off the shelf military systems it will make the various emergancy services jobs slightly easier.
    6, We really need to activily research alternatives to current fire supressents.
    7, Planning to become proactive is not good enough we have to become proactive. Punto

  13. Domestic, in HIGH RISK areas, i think the schools should have a section, most certainly. DIRT is KING almost for these applications.

    Moko: Ya mate is right, what also happens iss that if the resident ddoes not have enough tiem to seal doors, gutters , cover windows etc, then the odds of something going wrong will leap through the roof and the chance of survival decreases. The current thinking is stay with your house, this will now be questioned and they then should logically get to the point of , ” If not in the house, WHERE?”, well its either to your or A shelter of away completely.

    Bonus of the shelter is it allows you to TRY and defend your house and you have a safe falll back position. Thats just smart planning. I just had a thought. maybe an acreditation system, if you have x, y, and z done to your property and a, b,c traing then you can stay. If not, then you have to depart the property.

    Flint: Dirt tyres and that set up is spot on in my book and WELL WORTH THE EXERCISE, bonus i was thinking of too..WINE CELLAR.mmm.

    The black plastic over the corrie will be ok, just seal it with Duct tape. maybe have a look around for old railway iron beams or LARGE new sleepers. if sleepers ( new), just oil the hell out of them, they will not get wet, so they should outlast you.

  14. Difficult to get shelters up as a compulsory part of a bush development, but in the new buildings hwich will be constructed, surely there’s a lot of room for incorporating simple, adjunct structures. They don’t have to be flash and can double for other uses a la Flinthart’s wine cellar concept. If they’re used as fire shelters, its only going to be once. They need to be otherwise useful.

  15. Naut: I hope they done, I seriously hope this royal comish has a charter for the LOT. Not half arsed annd not just desk bound persons.

    Brian: Conntainers are perfect, the only draw back I see is perhaps the cost. What i was looking at I suppose was covering off both bases in that, the more affordable it is, the more likely it will happen, at least until we get a regs change.

    I just heard from a CFA memeber there are areas where you arre NOT ALLOWED to clear undergrowth ans it destabilises the arrea and wrecks the habitate, maybe for worms and bugs and the odd snake. I need to confirm this one. eg. Clean out leaves etc from gutters, but once dumped on the ground a certain distance form the dwelling it cannot be touched.

  16. Therbs, correct, that whhy I thought of play house / fort etc. they need to be multi purpose

  17. Air supply is important, I have heard that they stopped using shelters in the dandenongs because the air would be sucked out in a fire storm. Any ideas on how to combat that? Making the shelter airtight is dangerous if someone is trapped in there.

  18. In the age there was an interesting piece

    Therbs, under state law, not to difficult to add retroactive legislation like this within the building code.

    Politcally speaking I think we may see some legislation coming through in at least NSW and Vic that will allow the states to force evac no matter what. i know it’s a nanny state thing but the pollies will claim moral jepardy just like the NT intervention.

  19. Naut, as you probably know it was part of the building code that all swiss houses had to have a fall out shelter. You would use a simialr air system which basically uses chemical scrubbers for a shorttime and then canvent. Firestorms like we’ve seen won’t (hopefully) last long enough for the scrubbers to fail. Also more expensive systems allow for a resistance against exterior negative pressure.

  20. The problem in the case of Kinglake seems that the fire changed direction and moved so quickly people didn’t have time to evacuate. By the time the evac message came it was already too late. So if you introduce forced evac then authorities are going to be conservative and evac very early.

    Imagine in 10 years time how you would feel after you have been forcibly evac for the 4th time that fire season and the 10 time in the last 5 years? It will lose all impact.

    Much better to legislate to ensure people build safer houses or build a bunker.

  21. Naut, yes it would lose all impact but in the end this is politics we’re talking about. No state government is now going to avoid having some form of compulsory evacuation procedure in place, as if this ever happens again they’d get crucified.

    In the minds of the CS’s and pollies it’s about risk minimisation.

    Look they’re already talking about a Royal commision.. why? i mean it’s quite straight forward that this will require either a series of inquests or court cases (if arson is found to be a cause). the reason is that it’s good politics…..

  22. I agree with all the above problems on evac. If it’s not done early enough it can turn into the worst possible move. Fire proofed family bunker is the way to go.

    Was chatting to a Senior Nat. Park Ranger about the Evac of Fraser Island (2007?). To me it looked a sh!tfight he said it went off relatively well, considering some of the modelling that had been done.
    He had also been part of an EMQ planning exerise where Hervey Bay was evacced for a severe Cyclone.
    1 With transport bottlenecks & door to door enforcement it would take 3 full days to get everyone out.
    2 Cyclone tracks are so unpredictable that the BOM would only ever make the call to evacuate at 24 hours notice …

    He said it was like a disaster movie with busses full of Grannys flushed into the Mary River & hudreds if not thousands lost.

    Lots of talk about rejigging the “stay & fight or go early” avice. It sounds people didn’t hear the Early bit.

  23. Yeah, Bunkers seem to be a sensible half way point, that of done properly will add serious value.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s