Bushfires are scary and stressful. Understanding what to expect and having a plan about what you will do can help you cope if you get caught.

The best way to prepare yourself mentally is to have a written and practised plan that everyone in your household understands and has agreed to.

Do your 5 Minute Bushfire Plan

Fire starts in the area

Follow your written Bushfire Survival Plan, stay informed, stay alert. It may already be too late to leave safely.

What to expect

  • Embers, spot fires moving ahead of the main fire.
  • Smoke, heat, noise and darkness – this is before the fire hits.
  • Lack of visibility, making it hard to know where the fire is, travel will be dangerous.
  • Fires approaching from any direction (or two directions at once).
  • Burning embers landing around your property for hours before or after the main fire front has passed.
  • Roads blocked by fallen trees, branches, power lines and emergency vehicles.
  • Disruptions to telephone service, internet, mains power and water are common during a fire or on a fire risk day. Don’t rely on having mains power and water.

What to do:

  • Let neighbours and friends know you are staying.
  • Get into protective clothing.
  • Turn on sprinklers.
  • Shut doors / windows.
  • Put tape across the inside of windows so they remain in place if broken.
  • Watch out for embers.
  • Prepare yourself mentally for the coming fire.
  • Stay informed.


  • Stand on your roof with your hose: often more people are injured falling from roofs than suffer burn injuries.
  • Waste water wetting down roofs and walls at this stage. Use the water only for extinguishing burning materials.

Fire coming

Stay calm, check for embers and extinguish spot fires.

What to expect:

  • Flying embers and sparks can light spot fires hours before the fire front arrives
  • Smoke will reduce visibility
  • You may be without power and water

What to do:

  • Fight spot fires.
  • Wet vegetation near your house with a hose or sprinkler (now that the fire is closer).
  • Shut all windows and doors and place wet blankets and towels around windows and door edges to keep out smoke and embers.
  • Prepare inside your house (e.g. remove curtains, move furniture away from windows).
  • Stay close to the house, drink water and check welfare of others.
  • Patrol the inside of the home as well as the outside for embers or small fires.
  • Stay informed.


  • Try to outrun the fire in a car. It is likely too late to leave and a car offers little shelter in a bushfire

Fire arrives

If you are staying to defend your property or are unable to leave, seek shelter when the fire front arrives. A fire front may approach from any direction and you may be subject to multiple fronts at the same time or at separate times.

What to expect:

  • It will be dark, and very loud.
  • There will be smoke, embers and flames.
  • Radiant heat is the biggest killer. As the fire front passes you will be subject to radiant heat, which is many times hotter than the air temperature.

What to do:

  • Take all firefighting equipment inside such as hoses and pumps as they may melt during the fire.
  • Move inside the house until the fire front passes. If possible shelter in a room that is on the opposite side of the house to the approaching fire and has two exits.
  • Patrol the inside of the home – including checking the ceiling space – for embers or small fires.
  • Continue to drink water.
  • Reassure family and pets.


  • Shelter in a dam, swimming pool, tank or grazed paddock – radiant heat and smoke can still damage your face, head and lungs.

Surviving if you get caught in a building

If you are caught in a bushfire your best chance of survival is to shelter in a solid brick building.

  • Make sure you have two points of exit – including one direct exit out of the house.
  • Most bathrooms are not suitable to shelter in. They typically have only one door which can make escape impossible if that exit is blocked by flames and heat.
  • Most bathrooms also have frosted windows that do not let you see outside – during a bushfire it is important that you can look outside and see what is happening.
  • Wear protective clothing, long pants, and long-sleeved shirts of natural fibres such as 100% cotton or wool. Wear sturdy shoes such as leather boots (not sandals or runners).

If your home catches fire while you are inside, you will need to act quickly.

  • Close the door to the room that is on fire.
  • Keep down low to minimise breathing in toxic smoke from the house fire.
  • Move away from the areas of your home on fire, closing all the doors behind you.
  • Do not get trapped in a room with only one 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 from the fire.
  • Drink water to prevent dehydration.

If you are caught in a car

Sheltering in a car is extremely dangerous and can result in serious injury or death. Always plan to leave early to avoid this situation.

If you come across smoke or flames while driving – turn around and drive to safety. If you must stop:

  • Position the car to minimise exposure to radiant heat:
    • Try to find a clear spot and park away from dense bush and long grass.
    • Park behind a barrier such as a wall or rocky outcrop.
    • Park the car to face towards the oncoming fire front.
    • Park off the roadway and turn hazard lights on. Car crashes are common in bushfires due to not being able to see the road clearly.
  • To increase your chances of survival:
    • Stay in the car and close windows and doors tightly.
    • Cover up with woollen blankets and get down below window level – you need to protect yourself from radiant heat which will pass through glass.
    • Drink water to prevent dehydration.
  • As soon as you become aware that the fire front is close by:
    • Shut all vents and turn off the air-conditioning.
    • Turn off the engine.
    • Stay down until the sound of the fire has passed, carefully leave the car (it will be hot).

After fire has passed

Actively defend your property, return home when safe, look after yourself and loved ones.

What to expect:

  • Embers and spot fires are still a threat for many hours – even days – after a fire front has passed.

What to do:

  • Remember to put on any protective clothing you removed while inside.
  • Go outside and extinguish small spot fires and burning embers.
  • Hose down the house, paying special attention to the roof space, window frames and under-floor areas.
  • Patrol the property inside and out, including the ceiling space and extinguish any fires. Sparks and embers will continue to fall and smoulder, so keep checking.
  • Let everyone know that you are okay.
  • Monitor the radio for updates.
  • Stay with your home until you are sure the surrounding area is clear of fire and roads are safe.
  • Continue drinking plenty of water.

Returning home:

  • If you have have left, check television, radio, internet and other information sources to find out when it is safe to return home.
  • Be careful travelling home: watch out for hazards on the road, such as trees that have fallen or service vehicles and personnel, who may still be working in the area.
  • A fire can be selective, leaving one home untouched and destroying the next. If your home has been badly fire damaged and you need a place to stay, seek help from the local recovery centre.
  • Bring another adult with you when you first return.
  • Prepare mentally, have support and offer support to others during this time.
  • Look out for potential hazards when you enter your home and wear protective clothing.

Stay informed

At all stages of a bushfire it is important to stay informed. Fires can threaten suddenly and without warning. Find information on:

Do not rely on a single source for emergency warning information.

The CFS has a great social media presence informing you of current incidents, and spreading important community safety updates, warnings and news.


SA Country Fire Service
(for news, stories and warnings)
SA Country Fire Service Updates
(for all incidents and warnings)


(for news, stories and warnings)
(for all incidents and warnings)