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Even a small bushfire can be very dangerous because bushwalkers:
- Are on foot
- May have limited water
- Possess no protective equipment
- Have a limited awareness of what’s happening in their vicinity
- May not have expertise in bushfire behaviour
A bushfire can:
- Move quickly and unpredictably
- Rapidly grow larger
Bushfires can have:
- Walls of flame
- Intense radiant heat
- Huge amounts of very thick toxic smoke
- Showers of burning embers
- Strong and erratic winds
It is extremely dangerous to be anywhere near a bushfire.
Careful trip planning that takes into account prevailing and potential bushfire risk, possible fire danger ratings and weather forecasts will minimise the risk of being caught in a bushfire. Avoid planning trips to high risk locations at high risk times or seasons.
Know the fire danger ratings
The Australian Fire Danger Rating System uses four easy to recognise rating levels, each with a message to encourage you to take action to protect yourself and others in the face of bushfire risk.
The fire danger rating levels are:
- Moderate: Plan and prepare.
- High: Prepare to act.
- Extreme: Take action now to protect your life and property.
- Catastrophic: For your survival, leave bushfire risk areas.
The white bar under Moderate indicates No Rating for days where no proactive action is required by a community. This does not mean that fires cannot happen, but that any fires that start are not likely to move or act in a way that threatens the safety of the community.
If the Fire Danger Rating is CATASTROPHIC, the trip MUST BE CANCELLED.
Do not go bushwalking, or driving in the bush. It is unsafe to visit rural areas. Doing so can put lives at risk and impose an unwarranted burden on Emergency Services. National Parks and other public lands are also closed on these days.
If the Fire Rating is EXTREME, fires will spread quickly and be extremely dangerous. Reconsider travelling through or walking in bushfire risk areas.
If the Fire Danger Rating is HIGH, there is a heightened risk of a dangerous bushfire. The safest option is to avoid driving through or walking in bushfire risk areas. If walking, be alert for fires in the area and be ready to act.
In addition to bushfire risk, bushwalking in hot and dry conditions carries risks of heat stress and potentially fatal heat stroke.
Careful trip planning and a preparedness to relocate or cancel a trip if adverse weather is forecast, Fire Danger Ratings are very high, or if a fire is already burning in the area, is crucial for minimising the risk of being caught in a bushfire.
Ensure current local advice and emergency warnings are available. Install any State Emergency App and bookmark State Emergency Advice websites.*
State Emergency App and bookmark links are listed at the end of each State page:
- New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory
- Northern Territory
- South Australia
- Western Australia
*Mobile phone network coverage is required to receive Emergency information.
References and acknowledgements
State Rural or Country Fire Service websites have a great deal of informative educational and explanatory material on bushfire safety.
Source material used in this article was accessed in December 2023.