Bushfire: retrofitting rural and urban fringe structures—implications of current engineering data
journal contributionposted on 2021-06-14, 00:00 authored by Glenn CostinGlenn Costin
Since the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in which 173 lives were lost, two-thirds of whom died in their homes, the question of what a home prepared for bushfire looks like has been repeatedly raised. The 2019/2020 fires saw us not much further advanced. This paper seeks to consolidate what is known about bushfire behavior, its influence upon structures, and, through this data, infer improved standards of practice for retrofitting rural and urban fringe homes. In particular, the prevention of ember and smoke incursion: the data suggesting the prior as the main mechanism of home destruction; the latter as high risk to sheltering occupant health. The article is framed around a comprehensive literature review, and the author’s own experiences and observations from fire impacted structures in Victoria’s northeast. The article’s import lies in demonstrating how embers and smoke may enter homes otherwise seen to be appropriately sealed prior to the fire’s approach. Included in the findings are developed hypotheses based on thermal expansion, pressure differentials and backdraft; offering defined paths towards future research. In addition, the work provides practical advice towards mitigating the identified issues using retrofit practices based upon the author’s practical experience as a tradesperson and building designer.