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During an emergency such as a bushfire, it is hard to think clearly. You may forget important things or waste valuable time deciding where to go.

There are some simple steps you can take to get ready now:

  • learn about what Fire Danger Ratings mean and check them every day during the fire season
  • make your fire plan and talk with your family about what you will do. Just as every family or household is unique, every plan will be different
  • if you live in a regional area at risk of bushfires or grassfires, be prepared to leave early on very high-risk days or if a fire starts. It is the safest option

Fire Danger Ratings

The Fire Danger Rating is a scale that tells you how dangerous and unpredictable a fire will be if one starts.

It is determined by:

  • weather data from the Bureau of Meteorology
  • other environmental conditions such as fuel load

Fires can start on any day with any rating. On high danger-rated days, fire is more likely to be unpredictable and difficult for emergency services to control.

You need to know rating in your area.

Victoria has nine weather districts based on council boundaries:

  • Mallee
  • Wimmera
  • South West
  • Northern Country
  • North Central
  • Central
  • North East
  • West and South Gippsland
  • East Gippsland
graphic map of Victoria demonstrating the different fire districts and the Fire Danger Rantings

Each district is given its own rating for each day over the Fire Danger Period (during the warmer months). Ratings are forecast up to four days in advance and updated daily. Find your fire district on the CFA's website

You can also find important information about plans for dealing with bushfire in your community in the CFA's Community Information Guides

Learn more about each of the ratings

    • these are the worst conditions for a bush or grass fire
    • homes are not designed or constructed to withstand fires in these conditions
    • the safest place to be is away from high risk fire areas

    Schools, parks/forests and some businesses will close when a Code Red day is declared.

    What should I do?

    Leaving high risk fire areas the night before or early in the day is your safest option – do not wait and see.

    Avoid forested areas, thick bush or long, dry grass.

    Know your trigger to leave.

    Make a decision about:

    • when you will leave
    • where you will go
    • how you will get there
    • when you will return
    • what will you do if you cannot leave
    • Expect extremely hot, dry and windy conditions.
    • If a fire starts and takes hold, it will be uncontrollable, unpredictable and fast moving. Spot fires will start, move quickly and come from many directions.
    • some well-prepared homes may provide safety, but you need to be aware of the high risk.
    • If you choose to stay, you must be physically and mentally prepared to defend against fire in these conditions.

    What should I do?

    Consider staying with your property only if you are prepared to the highest level.

    A well-prepared home means:

    • your home is located and constructed (or modified) to withstand a bushfire
    • you have prepared for a fire
    • you can actively defend your home if a fire starts

    If you are not prepared, leaving fire prone areas early in the day is your safest option.

    Be aware of local conditions and seek information.

    You can:

    • Expect hot, dry and possibly windy conditions.
    • If a fire starts and takes hold, it may be uncontrollable.
    • Well prepared homes that are actively defended can provide safety.
    • If you choose to stay, you must be physically and mentally prepared to defend in these conditions.

    What should I do?

    Well prepared homes that are actively defended can provide safety. Check your fire plan.

    A well-prepared home means:

    • your home is located and constructed (or modified) to withstand a bushfire
    • you have prepared for a fire, and
    • you can actively defend your home if a fire starts

    If you are not prepared, leaving fire prone areas early in the day is your safest option.

    Be aware of local conditions and seek information.

    You can:

    • if a fire starts, it can most likely be controlled in these conditions and homes can provide safety.
    • be aware of how fires can start and minimise the risk
    • controlled burning off may occur in these conditions if it is safe. Check to see if permits apply

    What should I do?

    Check your fire plan.

    Monitor conditions.

    Action may be needed.

    Leave if necessary.

How to plan for bushfires and grassfires

  • It is very important to know what your plan will be for high risk days. Decide what you will do on Severe, Extreme and Code Red days.

    For more information on Fire Danger Ratings and warnings, you can visit the Vic Emergency website.

  • Leaving early on high risk days is always the safest option. It is rare that you will need to do this. Once the Fire Danger Rating reaches Extreme or Code Red, you should plan to leave all fire prone areas for the day.

    Leaving early on high risk days before a fire starts is safer. It means you will be in a clear mindset to follow your fire plan. It also reduces the risk of leaving too late when a fire has already started.

    Always discuss with your family and friends when you’ll leave, so that everyone is clear what the plan is.

  • It is best to have a couple of places to go. The person you planned to visit may not be home, or the route you planned to take may be closed.

    Will you go to a:

    • relative’s house?
    • hotel?
    • shopping centre far away from fire prone areas?

    Decide on some options and make sure you let everyone in your family or fire plan know what they are.

  • When you are making your fire plan, think about the unexpected.

    What if:

    • a tree has fallen on the main road out of town?
    • the kids are at a sleepover?
    • your partner is out of town?

    Think about how you will put your plan into action and what you might need to change at short notice.

    It is particularly important to know what you will do if you are not able to drive for any reason. How will you get away from fire prone areas?

    It is always safer to leave early.

  • Make a list of things you will need and important documents and items you want to keep safe. This is your Emergency Kit.

    Pack things like:

    • a phone charger
    • bottles of water
    • spare clothes
    • toiletries
    • medication
    • pet food
    • torch/batteries
    • cash
    • passports
    • photos and precious possessions

    How much do you need to pack? As a guide, think about what you will need if you are away for three days.

    Put a reminder in your calendar to put together your Emergency Kit this fire season.

    Need help with your list? The Red Cross have a great app ‘Get Prepared’ to help organise all the important items you need to consider.

    You can download:

  • Fires are also a very stressful time for your pets and livestock.

    Having a plan for them means they will be happier and safer when an emergency hits:

  • It is important to let your family and friends know you’re safe and what your movements are. It can reduce everyone's stress and concern.

    Make a list of people you will inform. Make sure to note down their contact details, just in case you lose your phone or it runs out of battery.

  • Is there anyone in your street who may need a little extra help?

    They could be:

    • elderly neighbours
    • families with small children
    • people who are not able to drive or travel easily

    Check in with them to see what their fire plan is and if they will need help in an emergency.

  • You can:

    Social media is also a great way to stay across bushfire information. You can follow:

What does Leave Early mean?

If you live in a regional area at risk of bushfire and grass fires, we recommend to always leave the night before or morning of an Extreme or Code Red (Fire Danger Rating) day.

These days are rare. They are rated high risk because of:

  • the heat
  • how dry the area is
  • how much dry vegetation there is (for example if there is dry forest, long grass, thick bush)
  • the wind

The worse these conditions are, the more difficult it is for emergency services to control fire. If the fire is unpredictable and uncontrollable, you do not want to be anywhere near it. Leave early.

Fires can start at any rating. Watch the conditions and check warnings so you know what to do if a fire starts.

You can:

  • download the VicEmergency App from the App Store or Google Play
  • add your location preferences (for example your home or other family member's homes)
  • set up notifications to be alerted of Fire Danger Ratings and emergency warnings

Total Fire Ban Days

Total Fire Ban Days are different to Fire Danger Ratings:

  • A Fire Danger Rating tells you how a fire is likely to behave if it starts. It gives you information to help you decide how you should put your fire plan into action.
  • A Total Fire Ban tells you if it is legal to do certain activities that may start fires.

Total Fire Bans are declared by CFA on days when fires are likely to spread rapidly and be difficult to control. This sets legal restrictions on what activities can or cannot occur in a district for that day.

The purpose of a Total Fire Ban is to reduce the activities that may start a fire such as outdoor BBQs and campfires.

You can find out more about what you can and cannot do on Total Fire Ban days on the CFA website.

Reviewed 16 February 2021

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