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Water tanks in bushfire zones

A typical Australian summer is high risk time for bushfires and deciding what kind of tank to install is a serious matter.

In research trials conducted by BlueScope Steel, in partnership with the CSIRO and Bushfire CRC, Steel Liner Water Tanks maintained their structural integrity and retained water during and after exposure to a simulated fire front. Poly Tanks catastrophically failed under the same conditions and should not be relied upon in fire prone areas.

Once you have your tank installed on your property, you will need to ensure that you are prepared for the possibility of bushfires occurring seasonally in your area.

Exposed PVC pipes and fittings will melt in the heat of a fire, so metal valves and pipe fittings should be used for above ground applications.

Mains water pressure may drop or fail and as a result, which means that you will need to have an independent water supply. This should be at least 50,000 litres, to ensure adequate defence for your home.

In order to maintain sufficient water supply to actively defend your home, you should have a generator with more than 1.5 kVa capacity to drive a home pressure pump or a petrol or diesel firefighting pump. Pumps and generators should be able to pump a mimimum of 400 litres per minute (lpm) and must be shielded from high temperatures caused by a bushfire. It is important that everyone likely to stay and defend your property knows how to start and operate the pump and generator and have practised it.

Hoses from the pump should be long enough to reach all corners of the home and should be fitted with a nozzle able to deliver at least 30 to 100lpm. Fire hoses should be durable, flexible, able to withstand high temperatures and have UV protection. Hoses should be kept on a reel for ease of handling and storage.

One of the most important factors relating to the protection of water tanks when exposed to fire, is keeping the area surrounding area clear of vegetation. Make sure that your preparation for the fire season included removing any vegetation or flammable materials from around your water tank.

Corrugated tank NSW

Steel water tank installed in rural NSW

Poly Tank in Fire CRC Report 2007

Structural exposure to fire of Poly Tank in CRC Research Trial

Ways you can prepare for bushfire include:

  • Have a bushfire survival plan
  • Prepare your property, including creating a 20 metre asset protection zone
  • Keep your water tanks, pumps and hoses in good working condition
  • Know and understand bushfire warnings
  • Using State specific emergency websites to access warnings
  • Staying in touch with neighbours, family and friends
  • Being alert and aware of your surroundings
  • Tuning into ABC or your local radio

 

Fire fighting requirements

Residential rural and commercial sites have different firefighting requirements, which are outlined in the Building Code of Australia (BCA) and Australian Standard 2419. You also need to check with your individual local government, which is also responsible for ensuring that the appropriate fire protection design requirements are included in a building. Every State in Australia also has different requirements for Fire Fighting for Farm Sheds, so you will also need to contact your local Authority to find out what is expected in your area.

 

Victoria

In Victoria, the Country Fire Authority (CFA) provides firefighting and other emergency services to country areas and regional townships within the state, as well as large portions of the outer suburban areas and growth corridors of Melbourne not covered by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade.

Farm Sheds in Victoria

  • Any rural building/shed over 500sqm requires 144,000lt of static water
  • The tank must comply with AS2419.1 in terms of the Large Bore Outlet (This means they don’t have to have a hydrant or hoses)
  • In most instances, the person/business completing the drawings/planning would advise the landholder of their requirements. (and CFA will advise local government of requirements when a building application is submitted)

You will need to contact your local Government Authority to determine the specific requirements in your area. More information can be found in the Building code for “Farm Buildings/Sheds” Publication and Practice Note 2015-67.

Queensland

The Rural Fire Service Queensland (RFSQ) is a volunteer-based firefighting agency and operates as part of the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services. Ask the RFSQ about water tank requirements and tank fitting specifications in Qld.

New South Wales

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) is a volunteer-based firefighting agency and statutory body of the Government of New South Wales. Ask the RFS about water tank requirements and tank fitting specifications in NSW.

South Australia

The Country Fire Service (CFS) is a volunteer based fire service in the state of South Australia. The CFS operates as a part of the South Australian Fire and Emergency Services Commission (SAFECOM). Ask the CFS about water tank requirements and tank fitting specifications in SA.

South Australian CFS Policy

The CFS Policy 0014 was introduced in June 2016 and states that sheds built in Rural SA, which exceed 500 square meters, are required to comply with both the state’s CFS Policy 0014 and recent legislative concessions for class 7b and class 8 farm buildings. (As per the Ministers Specification SA 3.2 for on-site Fire Water Storage and Fire Hydrant Systems.)

The policy has been legislated to ensure the CFS and MFS can access required volumes of fire water in the event of a fire. The CFS policy requires various water storage capacities, depending on the size of the shed and its intended use. Water storage tanks must be installed no closer than 10 metres from the shed, but no further than 30m. This is to allow a firefighter protection zone away from the potential fire and safe access to the water tank but close enough for the CFS to reach the flames. The tank must have a hard suction assembly which includes two CFS 63-millimetre outlets and one 125- 100mm Storz outlet for the MFS. The suction will also require a 150mm Anti-Vortex Suction Plate. Other requirements for tanks under the policy is fi re tank signage and water level indicator. A hard stand area is also required adjacent to the tank for the attending fire-fighting truck.

Overland Services are Heritage Water Tanks South Australian Distributor and specialise in the design, supply and installation of Fire Water Storage Tanks and complete Fire Hydrant Systems. They also provide the complete Hard Suction Assembly, Fire Hydrants and associated components, which are manufactured in-house, allow Overland Services to offer cost effective solutions to clients.

Western Australia

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services of Western Australia (DFES) and the Department of Parks and Wildlife (P&W) have joint responsibility for bushfire management in Western Australia. DFES is an umbrella organisation supporting the Bush Fire Service, Emergency Services Cadets, Fire and Rescue Service, State Emergency Service, Volunteer Emergency Service, Volunteer Fire Service, Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service, and the Volunteer Marine Rescue Services. Ask the DFES about water tank requirements and tank fitting specifications in WA.

Bushfire reforms in WA

New reforms took effect in April 8, 2016 that identifies bush fire prone areas and building and planning requirements for new homes built in bushfire-prone areas.

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services prepared a map which identifies the bushfire-prone areas across the State.  A bushfire hazard assessment is now required for new homes in areas identified as bushfire-prone on the map. The assessment will determine the level of construction standards for bushfire resistance to be applied, as identified in the Building Code of Australia and the Australian Standards AS3959.

Th new planning requirements affect landholders and land developers and in area that do not have mains water supply, water tanks for fire fighting purposes with a hydrant or standpipe must be provided and meet the following requirements: Volume: minimum 50,000 litres per tank; Ratio of tanks to lots: minimum one tank per 25 lots (or part thereof); Tank location: no more than two kilometres to the further most house site within the residential development to allow a 2.4 fire appliance to achieve a 20 minute turnaround time at legal road speeds; Hardstand and turn-around areas suitable for a type 3.4 fire appliance (i.e. kerb to kerb 17.5 metres) are provided within three metres of each water tank; and Water tanks and associated facilities are vested in the relevant local government. More information about this can be found within the Bushfire Guidelines.

The Water Corporation also recommends that you provide an independent supply in the event that mains water supply is disrupted during a fire.

 

Northern Territory

Bushfires NT is the lead government agency for rural fire management in the Northern Territory. Under its jurisdiction, there are six fire control regions in the NT. Bushfires NT’s primary roles are to administer the provisions set out in the NT Bushfires Act and support Territory landholders in fire mitigation and management. There are Bushfires NT offices in Darwin, Batchelor, Katherine, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs. Ask Bushfires NT about water tank requirements and fire tank specifications in NSW.

 

More Information

For more information about our fire ready steel water tanks, please contact us on 1800 115 552.

 

References

Building code for “Farm Buildings/Sheds” Publication Practice Note 2015-67 Sourced from: http://www.legislation.vic.gov.au/

DFES WA:

https://www.dfes.wa.gov.au/safetyinformation/fire/bushfire/Pages/default.aspx

http://www.dfes.wa.gov.au

http://www.planning.wa.gov.au/bushfire

or

http://www.areyouready.wa.gov.au

https://www.dfes.wa.gov.au/safetyinformation/fire/bushfire/pages/bushfirereadygroups.aspx

Department of Planning WA https://www.planning.wa.gov.au/dop_pub_pdf/Bushfire_Guidelines_Appendix.pdf

https://www.mediastatements.wa.gov.au/Pages/Barnett/2015/12/Bushfire-building-reform-aims-to-save-lives.aspx

Water Corporation

https://www.watercorporation.com.au/water-supply/bushfires-and-water-supply

Tanks on Trial: Performance of Rainwater Tanks in Bushfire Conditions, Bushfire CRC – Fire Note: Issue 68 Nov 2010. http://www.bushfirecrc.com/sites/default/files/managed/resource/tanks_on_trial.pdf

Research into the performance of water tanks in bushfire, R. Blanchi, J.E. Leonard, N. White, A. Sargeant, A. Bicknell, S Andersson CSIRO – Sustainable Ecosystems (CSE) Urban Systems Program, 2007.

http://www.bushfirecrc.com/sites/default/files/managed/resource/water-tank-behavior-bushfires.pdf

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