Bushfire Recovery

Recovering from a bushfire is a lengthy process and it takes an entire community to come together to support those who have been impacted. This page is a hub for resources and information on what to do and who can help after a bushfire.

If you were impacted by bushfire, there is a range of assistance and support available to you. The Shire will partner with Emergency Services as well as other State and local agencies and organisations to deliver and facilitate assistance.

Should you require any other support as you begin the recovery process do not hesitate to contact us on 9526 1111 and we will work to assist you to connect with the appropriate service or organisation.

    After a Bushfire

    The Department of Fire and Emergency Services has plenty of resources available for those returning home after a bushfire.

    These include the below and can be found at these links:

    After a bushfire

    Returning home

    Recovering household items 

    Insurance, repairs and rebuilding

    Your Wellbeing

    Livestock, pets and wildlife

    For rural and agricultural properties, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development has the following resources available:

    Farm recovery after fire

    Wind erosion control after fire

    Pasture recovery after fire

    Bush and revegetation recovery on farms after fire

    Water supply management on farms after fire

    Water erosion control after fire

    Farm biosecurity after a fire

    When you arrive home after a bushfire, please remember to be aware of the following potential risks:

    • Be wary of items such as glass shards, corrugated iron and rubble that could cause injury or infection.
    • Do not attempt to touch damaged asbestos, chemical containers, firearms, ammunition or explosives and contact local authorities for advice.
    • Do not drink or cook with water from your water tank, as it may be contaminated.
    • Check for any other hazards, including falling tree branches near any structures.
    • Do not drive or walk over your septic tanks if it may have been weakened by the fire.
    • If you suffer from asthma, heart or lung problems, make sure you always have medication with you.

    General tips and advice

    When returning home after a bushfire, it can be hard to know where to start in your recovery process. Below are some actions you should consider:

    • Throw away any food, drinks and medicines that have been exposed to heat, smoke or water, and any cans that are rusted, dented or swollen.
    • Throw away perishable food that has not been refrigerated or frozen properly due to power outages (your refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if unopened).  
    • Do not touch or use appliances, particularly electrical appliances that have been exposed to water, until you have an authorised service technician check them.
    • Inspect your makeup and your medicine cabinet and throw out anything that has signs of soot, smoke discolouration or fire extinguisher dust. Dangerous chemicals can be ingested or be absorbed through your skin if you keep contaminated items.
    • Low levels of ash on household surfaces are unlikely to cause short or long-term health effects. If anyone in your household is experiencing any health effects from the smoky conditions seek medical advice.

    Damaged buildings

    As soon as you can after a fire, contact your insurance company to report any damage or loss.

    They will need to send an assessor to your property to process your claim. Depending on their advice, you may be able to begin repairs and any rebuilding.

    Otherwise, please contact Shire’s Building Services team on 9526 1111 who can provide further advice on permits required for repairs, demolition and rebuilding.

    Water

    Water in rainwater tanks on your property can be contaminated during or after a bushfire, either indirectly by ash, smoke, debris or directly by fire and fire fighting activities.

    We encourage you to disconnect your roof plumbing from your rainwater tank to ensure that all rainwater from the first good rainfall event after the fire is run to waste, as this may be contaminated by ash and other pollutants from the fire.

    Find out more about rainwater tanks after a bushfire

    Asbestos

    Buildings built before 1988 may contain asbestos cement (sometimes called ‘AC’ or ‘ACM’) sheeting in walls, roofs, floor underlays, eaves, chimney flues or asbestos in vinyl floor tiles and backing to sheet linoleum. These materials are generally not a health risk unless they are cut, broken, drilled or crushed, which releases asbestos fibres into the air. During a fire asbestos often shatters from the heat and releases flakes of asbestos cement around the property.

    If you suspect that your property could be heavily contaminated, for example asbestos in the soil, do not start clean-up until you have been told it is safe.

    Please contact Shire’s Environmental Health Services on 9526 1111 to seek advice in relation to asbestos contamination. You may be required to engage a Worksafe licensed asbestos removalist.

    Small unburned quantities (a few sheets or fragments) of broken or damaged asbestos cement material or debris under 10m2 should be:

    • wet down with a hose or bucket (not a pressure cleaner)
    • carefully removed and wrapped securely in heavy duty plastic sheeting or bags
    • wrapped in bundles and clearly labelled with the words ‘CAUTION ASBESTOS’
    • taken to a landfill site approved to accept asbestos.

    Please ensure that you wear personal protective clothing before commencement of asbestos removal.

    Further information regarding asbestos, please visit Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety and Department of Health

    Copper Chrome Arsenate (CCA Treated Wood)

    CCA-treated wood is commonly used in structures such as pergolas, decking, fencing and landscaping. After a fire, the ash from this wood contains up to 10% (by weight) arsenic, copper and chromium.

    Swallowing only a few grams of this can be harmful. Children, pets and other animals must be kept away from these ash areas until clean-up is completed.

    • Ash should be double-bagged, sealed and taken directly to an approved landfill site.
    • Damaged timber can also be taken to an approved landfill site.

    Find out more about how to stay safe around copper chrome arsenate treated wood.

    Septics and Effluent Disposal

    Most onsite effluent disposal systems have plastic components, which are more susceptible to damage. This includes shallow PVC pipes, plastic tanks and sumps, and plastic irrigation pipework which may be installed above or below ground. Pumps and other equipment with electrical components may also be damaged.

    It is recommended that damaged on-site wastewater systems are not used until repaired or replaced.

    For any damages to your septic and effluent disposal system, please contact Shire’s Environmental Health Team on 9526 1111 to seek advice.

    Waste Collections

    If you have a damaged bin or require a non-scheduled bin collection as a result of the fire incident (such as not being home to put the bin out or having additional food waste from power outage that does not fit in your bin) please contact the Shire on 9526 1111.

    If you need to dispose of green waste or hard waste, you are able to access and use the Shire’s Watkins Road Waste Transfer Station and Recycling Centre free of charge. 

    Find out more about the Waste Transfer Station here

    For further information or support regarding waste services, please contact the Shire’s Coordinator Waste Services on 9526 1111.

    Utilities

    It’s likely that your gas, electricity and water have been shut off or disconnected during the fire.

    You will need to wait for the suppliers to send a qualified tradesperson to inspect and repair any damage, plus arrange for reconnection.

    If you are insured, your insurance company can organise this for you. If you are not, you will need to sort this out yourself. Make sure you get in touch with your utility providers:

    • Western Power 13 13 51
    • Alinta Gas 13 13 52
    • Kleenheat Gas 13 21 80
    • ATCO Gas 13 13 52
    • Water Corporation 13 13 75
    • Your phone and internet provider

    Mental Health and Social Support

    Emergencies and crises by their very nature are disruptive and can be stressful. The recovery process can take time, sometimes months or even years.

    What you, your family or friends have experienced is a unique and personal event. Some crises happen suddenly, with very little or no warning. Others develop more slowly and accumulate over time.

    It’s normal to have a range of feelings in reaction to an abnormal situation. With time, some simple steps, and the support of people close to them, most people will cope well with the stress of a crisis.

    Common physical and emotional reactions following an emergency or crisis change and evolve over time.

    For each of the stages you’ll find information on some of the common reactions to crises. There are also tips on how to look after yourself and your loved ones. There are many different forms of support available to you.

    Thankfully there are numerous support services that can provide assistance following a disruptive event, including: 

    Your Wellbeing

    Rural Business Financial Counselling 

    Red Cross

    Emergency Services Volunteer Hardship Assistance Scheme 

    Disaster and Emergency Support Services

    Mental Health Care Plans are available if you make an appointment with your General Practitioner. Describe your situation and seek a referral under the Medicare Better Health Plan.

    Additional information can be found here: Services Australia (mental health care and Medicare can assist with some mental health treatments)

    Other resources are available including:

    Disaster and Emergency Support Services | Dealing with the effects of a traumatic event (Department of Communities)

    Coping with a major personal crisis (Australian Red Cross) 

    Support Service Helplines

    If you need to speak to someone, the following support service helplines are available to you:

    • Disaster Response Hotline: 1800 032 965 for immediate welfare assistance.
    • Money Mentors: 9581 1281 - moneymentors.org.au
    • Anglicare: 1300 11 44 46
    • Byford Baptist Church Free Food Market: 0476 365 867
    • Crisis Care: 9223 1111
    • Lifeline: 13 11 14
    • The Samaritans: 135 247
    • Relationships Australia: 1300 364 277
    • Centrelink: 132 850

    Support services for children include:

    • Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800
    • Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636

    Animals and Wildlife

    Domestic pets

    Health concerns for domestic pets should be directed to your local vet. Concerns for lost pets can be directed to Shire on 9526 1111.

    Wildlife

    Concerns and queries about injured wildlife should be directed to the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions Wildcare Helpline on (08) 9474 9055.

    Find out more about recovery for animal welfare after emergencies

    Farmland and Livestock Management

    The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development is available to assist those impacted by bushfire with any livestock related concerns or issues.

    If you are concerned about your livestock or require any information, please don’t hesitate to call the Community Safety team on 9526 1111 and we will be happy to link you with people who can assist.

    More information can be found at the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development website