At the recent Australian Bushfire Building Conference held in the Blue Mountains, bushfire practitioners from across Australia discussed industry learnings and lessons learnt from the last fire season and raised awareness of key issues for future bushfire seasons.
Keen to apply any lessons learnt from high profile, experienced speakers including Shane Fitzsimmons AFSM (Resilience NSW) and Rob Rogers AFSM (NSW Rural Fire Service), as well as other industry leaders, people gathered to take away something to put into practice this coming fire season.
Local NGH’s Bushfire Protection Accredited Practitioner (BPAD), Brad Draper, attended the conference in-person. He said that the conference was invaluable to practitioners in deepening their understanding of how bushfires behave, both at the urban interface and broader landscape.
Furthermore, it is important to create awareness of how we can implement that knowledge into the Bushfire Assessments and risk management measures for buildings, while improving circumstances for emergency responders who may attend.
The conference successfully delivered information for those attending in person and by an online portal at a time when COVID-19 restricted in-person gatherings.
“Hearing from speakers like Shane Fitzsimmons and Rob Rogers, and discussions with other attendees, gave on the ground practitioners an insight into how the fires acted, changing some well-held beliefs on fire characteristics,” Brad said.
Discussion included the serious cumulative effect that results when prolonged drought, low rainfall and hot, dry weather coincide, the impact this has on fire behaviour and the increased difficulty involved in containment and control.
Conference sessions included fire season house loss statistics for NSW, research into building resilience, land-use planning, bushfire design considerations for high bushfire attack level (BAL) homes, as well as discussions associated with the Bushfire Royal Commission and the NSW enquiry into bushfires.
“It is evident that the impact of sub-standard property maintenance and poor upkeep of bushfire protection measures has a serious consequence on the effectiveness of bushfire design considerations,” Brad said.
“Preliminary findings from the 2019-2020 fire season emphasised the importance of ongoing property maintenance to improve the resilience of a building and the need to inform and prepare the broader community for bushfire events.”
Attendees in-person for the conference were limited to around 70, along with many online (virtual) attendees.
“Physical distancing was taken into consideration with well-spaced tables and pre-packaged food to ensure COVID-19 risk planning and measures were implemented between each attendee,” he said.
Bushfires are a new capability for the growing environmental consultancy. Given the previous fire season, the relevance of having Brad’s bushfire capabilities within NGH has been seen as a vital and necessary addition to their team.
NGH has grown from its roots in Town Planning and Environmental impact assessment to include in- house specialists in Ecology, Heritage (Historic and Aboriginal), Contamination and Land and Water Services, and now Bushfire, providing a one-stop shop for Bushfire Planning and all development services.
“Bushfire provides a strong addition to the NGH suite of services, complementing and enabling close collaboration with other specialists to improve development outcomes,” he said.
Brad is NGH’s Senior Planner and Bushfire Lead and is building the Bushfire business for NGH’s eight offices across eastern Australia, based in the Newcastle office.
“We’ve been working on a number of renewables projects preparing bushfire assessments including solar and wind developments, as well as bushfire assessments for residential developments, certification services and other infrastructure developments. It’s an exciting time for NGH.”
Brad has 10 years of experience as a Town Planner in private-sector planning and local government as well as 6 years’ experience in Bushfire Assessments.
He is an experienced Project Manager and Registered Planner and brings his thorough knowledge of the NSW Planning framework, and experience liaising with specialists and government authorities, to help clients navigate the approval process.
Brad is also a Level 2 Bushfire Planning and Design (BPAD) Accredited Practitioner, as recognised by the Fire Protection Association (FPA) Australia, meaning he is recognised by the NSW RFS as a qualified consultant in bush fire risk assessment.
The NGH Bushfire services team provides clients with advice for development applications and compliance, pre purchase advice and consultations, strategic and infrastructure planning.
“Bushfire hazards are prominent throughout the Australian landscape, so it is fundamental to be able to manage and reduce this risk to an acceptable level, while maintaining sound economic, environmental, and social outcomes,” Brad said.
“Helping guide clients to achieve positive outcomes, while providing both the building and its occupants or users with the suitable level of protection to minimise the vulnerability of a building or property to bushfire attack, is my passion.”
IMAGE | NGH Senior Planner, Brad Draper provides insight at bushfire conference.