Fire risk season is here

The weather is getting hotter and all that's needed are some strong winds to place many Sydney homes at risk of fire.

But while fire fighters across Australia are bracing themselves for a busy time ahead there are a number of simple things you can do to prepare your home and reduce the chance of tragedy. Preparing your home for bushfires not only affects you and your property, but also your neighbours' homes, so by taking action now you can help reduce the risk for everyone.

Glenn Stubbs, group manager - category development at Briggs & Stratton, which produces an extensive range of outdoor power equipment, has some key tips to help prepare your property and reduce any fire hazards.

"The wet weather leading into last winter has led to prolific grass growth around the country and with bushfire season running until March or April 2013, it's important to prepare now," he said. "Across the Briggs & Stratton and Victa ranges, we have products that can help you get your gardens and property ready for summer. The Victa range includes ride-on and walk-behind mowers to keep your lawns under control, and outdoor vacuums and blowers for clearing leaves. The Briggs & Stratton range includes generators for emergency power, and water pumps designed to help or protect your property."

■ PREPARING YOUR HOME: KEY TIPS

■ Sources:

NSW Rural Fire Service; Country Fire Authority; QLD Government

Assess your property and identify any potential fire hazards. This includes wood piles or timber, unpruned trees and long grass. If your home is located near a bushland area then the risk is heightened.

Clear away fine fuel that may help a fire along. This includes leaves, twigs and smaller plant debris that may be found all over your property. Focus particularly on fine fuel found close to your home. Clean leaves and other plant matter out of your gutters.

Keep the lawn short and maintain trees and hedges. This will make it easier to defend your property from a bushfire.

The Victa Tornado 26cc Petrol Trimmer helps deal with weeds and grass growing up against the house or around garden edges.

Cut back trees overhanging the house.

A Victa chainsaw can help with pruning the lower branches of trees, while covering woodpiles and moving them away from the house helps to reduce the risk of fire spreading.

Water pumps at the ready

Briggs & Stratton also has a range of water pumps, made from lightweight aluminium so they are easy to transport. The high pressure fire fighting pumps can be used to extract an emergency source of water from a pool, dam or water tank when fires are near. The range also includes trash and transfer pumps which can handle small solids. These low-pressure pumps are ideal for bigger properties where you may need to transfer water to and from tanks or dams.

Equipment checks and maintenance

Now is also an opportune time to check that your generators, water pumps and piping systems are all in working order. This will ensure that in the case of an emergency you are ready to protect your property.

"I recommend using a Briggs & Stratton authorised warranty repair centre to service generators and water pumps," Mr Stubbs said.

Seal all gaps in your roof, walls and under the house

This will help prevent embers from entering roof spaces or underneath your home and starting a blaze that you cannot see. It is also a good idea to check that a fire truck would be able to access your property if need be.

Have an emergency bushfire plan

The most important thing is to make a bushfire plan and share it with family members and neighbours to ensure your safety. This plan should include whether you will evacuate or stay to defend your home, and what you will need for each scenario. You should also consider what to do with any pets or animals on your property. In summary, follow this preparation checklist:

■ Clear garden of extra leaves, branches and other combustible material

■ Keep grass short and prune trees, bushes and hedges around the house

■ Clean out your gutters

■ Seal gaps in your roof, walls and under the house

■ Check generators and water pumps to ensure they are in working order

■ Make an emergency bushfire plan and share it with family members and neighbours.

■ VICTA SELF PROPELLED MOWER

To help stay on top of lawns and grassy areas, Mr Stubbs said that a self-propelled mower could be just what you are looking for, as it essentially does the hard work for you.

"A self-propelled mower helps reduce operator fatigue and makes lawn mowing quicker and easier to do," Mr Stubbs said. "Simply put, it removes the 'pushing through the grass' factor from the equation. Keep in mind that every 1000 square metres of lawn you mow means a walk of two to three kilometres."

Self-propelled mowers require the user to squeeze a bar to engage the wheels of the mower. They feature a drive system consisting of a belt drive, a gear box and a wheel drive that causes two of the wheels to rotate. This means you don't have to exert force to push it, because when you start the drive system the mower propells itself. You simply walk behind and guide it.

"These types of mowers are also great for anyone with less mobility and the elderly, because they take the exertion out of the job," Mr Stubbs said.

Victa has two self-propelled mowers which have proven very popular in Australia: the Commando Self Propelled which retails for $729, and the Commando Self Propelled/Key Start which retails for $999. These mowers are ideal for gardens which include slopes, hills, uneven terrain or small acreage. And with the easy key start model there are no more frustrating battles trying to start the mower; all you need to do is just turn the key.

■ Details: Call 1800 356 632 or visit www.victa.com.au to find your local stockist.

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