Town homes in fire zones

PROPERTY owners in the centre of Maffra, Stratford, Rosedale and Heyfield are deemed to be in designated bushfire prone areas, and all new buildings and alterations and additions in these areas will have to meet strict bushfire standards.

Sale appears to be spared bushfire prone area status, as does Yarram’s central business district and Newry.

However Loch Sport, Briagolong, Boisdale, Seaspray, Golden Beach, Cowwarr, are all in designated bushfire zones.

According to the Victorian Department of Planning and Community Development, minimum construction standards apply to all new buildings in bushfire prone areas, and landowners must build to a minimum Bushfire Attack Level of 12.5.

A Bushfire Attack Level or BAL is a means of measuring the severity of a building’s potential exposure to ember attack, radiant heat and direct flame contact.

There are six Bushfire Attack Levels- BAL-LOW; BAL-12.5; BAL-19; BAL-29; BAL-40 and BAL-FZ (Flame Zone) which form part of the Australian Standard for construction of buildings in bushfire prone areas (AS 3959-2009).

Depending on the BAL rating, there will be a range of requirements covering sub-floor supports, roofing, external walls and windows, roofs, verandas and decks.

For instance, in a BAL-FZ area, the most extreme, external walls will need to be made of non-combustible material (masonry, brick veneer, mud brick, aerated concrete, concrete) with minimum thickness of 90mm or must meet a designated fire resistance level.

And windows would need to be protected by bushfire shutters and openable portion screened with steel or bronze mesh or be tested for a designated standard of bushfire resistance.

The Building Commission Victoria is advising people to be aware of the rules in designated bushfire prone areas.

It says before designing a home in one of these areas, a site assessment will need to be undertaken to ascertain the BAL, which will determine the construction methods that must be used.

Construction requirements will take into account a range of factors, including the fire danger index, land slope and types of surrounding vegetation and its proximity to the building.

In addition, property buyers will now need to be told up front whether land is in a bushfire-prone area, following changes to Victorian property laws which came into effect on July 31.

Consumer Affairs Minister Heidi Victoria said the Sale of Land Act 1962 would require this information to be disclosed in the vendor statement (or Section 32).

“This amendment was an important recommendation of the 2009 Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission into the Black Saturday bushfires,” Ms Victoria said.

“Buyers will now be informed about whether the property they are considering is in a bushfire-prone area.

“Property sellers must declare this information in any vendor statement prepared from 31 July, 2013.”

Under the changes, if land is in a bushfire-prone area, then the vendor statement must include a statement that the land is in such an area.

Ms Victoria said that the change gave buyers further legal protection, but urged due diligence.

“It’s important to fully research any property you are planning to buy, including finding out about its bushfire safety,” Ms Victoria said.

More information about buying and selling property is available on the Consumer Affairs Victoria website at www.consumer.vic.gov.au/property

Information about whether a property is in a designated bushfire-prone area is available free by searching the address in the Property Report section of the Victorian Government Land Channel website at www.land.vic.gov.au