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Have you made a fire plan?

Have you made a fire plan to protect pets and livestock? 

Landholders and pet owners urged to heed fire preparedness warning

As summer heats up, livestock and pet owners have been urged to heed the Rural Fire Service (RFS) message and make sure they're well prepared to deal with the very real possibility of bushfire this season.

"With the bush fire season upon us and devastating fires already experienced in Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria, many livestock and pet owners will have already made plans for how to handle animals when fires threaten," said Central Tablelands Local Land Services Regional Vet, Bruce Watt.

Central Tablelands Local Land Services is supporting the RFS message to landholders to prepare a fire plan that includes a strategy for livestock and pet management.

"If people haven't yet assessed the fire risks on their property and drawn up a plan, then now is the time to get that job done," said Bruce. 

"Animals need to be considered in any fire plan, not just because their health and welfare is important, but also because concerns about animals can increase the risks that people will take during a fire emergency."

"The 2009 Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission Final Report noted that 'there were a small number of cases in which people died after refusing to leave without their pets and animals or delayed their departure for too long because of concern for their animals.' 

The Report stated, 'Evidence demonstrates that the strong ties people have for their homes and their animals have a big impact on their decision making.'

Bruce Watts believes it's a key responsibility for livestock and pet owners to ensure that they plan ahead to manage their animals, and evacuate them promptly when that is the appropriate response.

The RFS, which is the lead government agency for bushfires, has a wealth of information available on their website, including on how to design a Bush Fire Survival Plan. 

Recommendations on the site include checking your insurance for coverage of animals.

"In discussions with a farmer who was previously burned out, he remarked that being insured removed a significant source of stress when fires threaten," said Bruce. 

"Further RFS recommendations are to consider moving livestock to well grazed or ploughed areas when bush fires are a threat, to avoid tying up animals, and removing rugs and veils from stock such as horses."

 "Many farmers are experienced at managing the risk of fires and by now they will have prepared safe areas for stock and may have laneways, sheds and yards prepared. In a fire emergency they will have the benefit of local knowledge about whether it is safe to move stock or better to open internal gates and allow animals to seek safe areas themselves." 

"One comment I have heard from farmers who have been through a fire event, is that cattle seem much more able than sheep at seeking shelter on their own."

"It's also worth noting that moving stock down hill is safer than the reverse, as fire moves more slowly going downhill than uphill."

"The most important reminder for any pet or livestock owner is that human safety should come first. Losing stock and pets in a fire is a terrible thing, but losing a human life will be devastating for your family and those you leave behind." 

"Ideally, with a well prepared plan in place, unnecessary risks will be avoided, and pets, livestock and people will all be kept safe in a fire emergency," said Bruce. 

With regard to fire management, Local Land Services is a support agency to the RFS and the NSW Department of Primary Industries. 

For more information on planning ahead the RFS Farm FireWise Checklist and Action Plan can be found on the RFS website at: www.rfs.nsw.gov.au 

  To report a fire emergency call Triple Zero (000). If you are deaf or have a speech or hearing impairment call 106. The RFS Bush Fire Information Line is 1800 679 737.

Media contact: Kylie Krause 0439 608370 | kylie.krause@lls.nsw.gov.au