Opinion: Firefighting water supplies as a community service

Bushfire building regulations require the provision of dedicated water tanks for firefighting purposes as part of new builds in many areas. Architect Emilis Prelgauskas makes the case for community water supplies for firefighting 

I am a strong advocate of on-property stored firefighting water positioned to be easily accessed by first responder fire trucks, for example alongside the driveway or front gate of the property. If a fire truck takes your water to go and fight the fire upwind of your house and the fire is contained there, your property is protected and you have made a positive contribution to the community. If you hold your water on your property instead, by the time the fire arrives it will have increased in speed and intensity, and the water may be inadequate for effective defence. 

Remember that a bushfire is not about you and your home alone; it is a threat to the whole community, and only the community together can bring it under control. Look at your firefighting water tank as your offering toward that community fight, just as your neighbours and the volunteers on the fire authority trucks are contributing. 

What is also becoming clear is that a firefighting water tank visible from the road, together with a wide open gate, clear stabilised access driveway and turnaround for fire trucks, clearly announce your property as fire-fit. ‘Loud and proud’ is an important part of improving existing home resilience in line with contemporary bushfire conditions. 

Emilis has been deployed to 16 firegrounds in the last decade and has volunteered on recovery committees to assist fire-impacted families. He brings his practical, built environment, legal and academic backgrounds to the evolving issues of buildings and bushfire. 

Left: ‘Catherine wheel’ sprinklers send water up onto the roof and down the walls to protect against fire. Right: Active fire defences can include metal or concrete water tanks with a diesel pump and a hose long enough to reach around the property.

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