On Christmas Day 2015 a raging fire tore through the Wye River and Separation Creek region. Thankfully no lives were lost, but the impact to the small beachside towns were nonetheless devastating. Over 100 homes were destroyed with roughly 80% of buildings in the fire area lost to fire.
Following the fire the CSIRO reviewed the houses that were impacted in the Wye River fire footprint with the aim of identifying factors that led to the loss, damage and survival of these houses. A Modscape home at Wye River survived the fire and was assessed as part of the CSIRO’s report.
Completed in 2013, the design of the home utilises four modules and is raised high off the sloping ground, taking full advantage of the stunning sea views. The home was constructed to Bushfire Attack Level 40 (BAL-40) construction requirements. This meant certain non-combustible materials were selected. Colourbond steel was selected for the cladding as it both complied with bushfire regulations and didn’t compete visually with the surrounding bush.
The home survived the fire with some charring to its decking, and the report identified a number of design factors that led to the survival of the home, stating:
“The house’s steel support structure and non-combustible subfloor, cladding, window frames and doors were effective in resisting ignition in combination with aerial suppression activities.”
The report also highlighted that:
- “The decking and support structure appeared to be effective in retarding flame development from the ember attack.”
- “The inclusion of gutter guards and a simple roof profile also appeared to limit the likelihood of a roof ignition.”
- “The deck was supported by galvanised steel bearers and posts, which were effective in supporting the decking structure and building throughout the fire event.”
The Wye River project is proof of the importance of the Bushfire Management Overlay provisions when designing and constructing a new home in an at-risk area. And the CSIRO report is a reminder that by taking the time to understand the mechanisms of house survival we can learn valuable lessons for the future.