I urge pet owners within and beyond Ballarat to ensure you include pets as part of your worst case scenario fire planning.
I do this as someone who lost several friends, at Kinglake, along with their beloved pets on Black Saturday. These friends made the decision to stay and defend their homes.
Plan what you will do on and in the lead up to designated ‘catastrophic’ fire risk days, to minimise the potential impact of fire on you and your animals.
Do you have friends in a less risky zone happy to accommodate your pets in such times?
Remember, if you nominate to stay and defend your home, that will likely demand all your energy should fire strike. How much time and energy would you realistically have to ensure the comfort and safety of Rover and Thomasina if you are beating off embers, or bucketing water when the power fails and hoses melt?
Your pets are likely to be unpredictable and disoriented. Could you lead your blind-folded horse through flames to save its life?
Don’t leave it too late to plan for evacuation, at very least of your animals and children.
Include your pets in a fire evacuation drill.
Pack an emergency kit for pets, along with your own, including things like vaccination certificates, emergency food, leads, water bowls, rugs and coats and a toy or two. Maybe keep your cat crate and dog seatbelt in the car through the fire season. Make sure you have photos of pets in the sad event they are lost. They should be micro-chipped and registered with your local council. Sadly, all too many pets get picked up by animal shelters in the aftermath of fires and the only thing preventing them from being easily reunited with their owners is the lack of identification.
On a brighter note, plantings of fire retardant species can help shelter and protect your home from prevailing winds and lessen ember attack threats. Mulching with non-flammable materials is also paramount if you live in a high risk zone.
And remember, you don’t necessarily have to live in the country to live in a high risk zone.
My home here, in the suburbs of Ballarat is deemed to be in a moderate risk of bushfire zone, whilst my neighbours, just doors away but even closer to Lake Wendouree, are deemed to be in a high risk fire zone.
You can check the fire risk rating of where you live at Victorian Government websites. You may be as surprised as I was, to discover your city home falls under a high or moderate risk of bushfire zone, particularly, if you live close to parks and wild areas, or urban fringes!