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Fires are unpredictable and even well thought out plans can fail. It is important to have a back up plan that identifies last resort shelter options that could save your life if you are caught in a fire.

If things don’t go to plan and there is a threat of bushfire, you should be aware of what alternative shelter options are nearby.

When thinking about surviving in last resort shelter options, it is important to understand radiant heat. Radiant heat is the biggest killer in a fire. The human body is not able to absorb the large amounts of radiant heat produced by a bushfire. It can lead to the body’s cooling system failing, causing heat exhaustion, heart failure and ultimately death.

Radiant heat travels in straight lines, and can be blocked by a solid object such as a brick wall or building.

But it can travel through glass. A well prepared home or building that you can actively defend is the preferred option if you unable leave the area. This may be:

Your own home, or that of a neighbour

A private bunker that meets current regulations

A designated community shelter or fire refuge

As an absolute last resort where no other options are available you may find enough shelter for survival in the following places. These options do not guarantee your safety, but may ensure survival.

A Neighbourhood Safer Place – Place of Last Resort (see below)

A stationary car parked in a cleared area

A ploughed paddock or reserve

A body of water (such as a river, swimming pool, dam or water tank)

NOTE: Bodies of water such as rivers, swimming pools, dams and water tanks leave your face, head and lungs exposed to smoke and radiant heat. DO NOT shelter here unless it is an absolute last resort and no other options are available.

Neighbourhood Safer Place – Place of Last Resort

For information about Community Fire Refuges, please visit:


Milwarra Primary School, East Warburton Campus

397 Woods Point Road, East Warburton 3799

Wesburn/Millgrove CFA Station

Warburton Highway, Millgrove 3799


Warburton Recreation Reserve Oval

3455 Old Warburton Highway, Warburton 3799


Private Bunkers


What to do if you are caught in a bushfire?

A well prepared home

If you cannot leave, a well prepared home that you can actively defend is the preferred option. This may be your own home, or that of a neighbour. If you are sheltering in a building during a bushfire, make sure you have more than one point of exit in every room used a shelter. This is why bathrooms are usually unsuitable to shelter in. They typically have only one door making it impossible to escape if the doorway becomes blocked by flames and heat. Remember, any place used for shelter in a building should have at least two points of exit.

If the house or building you are sheltering in catches on fire you will need to respond very quickly. There are a few things you can do to improve your chances of survival in this situation:

Close the door to the room that is on fire

Move to the other end of the building, closing all possible doors behind you

Do not get trapped in a room without an alternative exit

Move outside to burnt ground as soon as you can

Wherever possible, try to put a solid object between you and the radiant heat of the fire

Drink water to prevent dehydration

If you are caught in a car

Being on the road is one of the most dangerous places to be during a fire. This is why it is so critical that you plan to leave early on high risk days, well before a fire starts in the area. However, if you are in your car and encounter smoke or flames, and you are not able to turn around and drive to safety, take the following actions:

  1. Position the car to minimise exposure to radiant heat:

Park away from dense bush – try to find a clearing

If possible, park behind a barrier such a wall or solid object

The car should ideally face towards the oncoming fire front

Park off the roadway and turn hazard lights on. Car crashes are common in bushfires due to poor visibility

   2. To increase your chances of survival:

Stay in the car and tightly close windows and doors

Cover up with woollen blankets and get down below window level – you will need to protect yourself from radiant heat which will pass through the glass

Drink water to prevent dehydration

   3. As soon as you become aware that the fire front is close by:

Shut all vents and turn off the air conditioning to limit the circulation of toxic fumes caused by burning plastic

Turn off the engine

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