Rebuilding Post-Bushfire

IMPORTANT: Please be aware that there may be delays with bushfire and building fire safety assessments due to site inspection restrictions because of the COVID-19 situation. Please contact us on (08) 8115 3372 to discuss further (as at 6 August 2020) 

If you have suffered property loss during the 2019/2020 significant fires (Yorketown, Cudlee Creek, Kangaroo Island, Keilira), then the following information may help you navigate the process of rebuilding so that you can get your life back to normal as quickly as possible.

As a community based organisation, we share your grief and trauma during this difficult time and we are proud of the tremendous courage and resilience that the community has proudly demonstrated.

We are committed to working with fire effected communities to try and ensure that our rebuilt properties and communities are better prepared for future events.

This step by step guide will help assist you in understanding the necessary steps and requirements to rebuild.

Step 1: Be informed

Once you are ready to rebuild it is important for you to understand several things:

  • If your house was built within the last 10 years it is likely the construction standards required and the cost (allowing for standard inflationary cost increases) will not be too dramatically different.
  • However, if your house was an older build then the construction standards required and the cost to rebuild to meet them are likely to be much higher. These construction standards have been in place (in different forms nationally) for over a decade and are designed to help make homes and assets in designated bushfire prone areas more resistant to bushfire.

It is very important to note that only very specially designed and constructed homes have a chance of surviving catastrophic and extreme fire danger days like those which have occurred so far during the 2019/2020 fire season.

Talking to your local Council is the first step for your rebuilding process.

At this stage of the process, there is also considerable help and assistance available through the Recovery process. Make sure you find out about the wide range of services available to help you rebuild and recover:

Step 2: Pre-lodgement Advice

Once you have worked with your local Council it will be time to progress your plans. If you are unsure about the siting of your dwelling, or you need to work out the potential costs of a new building prior to lodging an application, a Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) assessment may be required to determine the necessary construction level commensurate to your level of risk.

A BAL assessment is conducted by trained SA CFS officers (or specialist private contractors) and looks at things like the slope, vegetation (normally present prior to the fire, if it is likely to recover and be retained), aspect of the land and the proposed siting of your house.

If you have had a BAL assessment of your land in the previous 3 months then you do not require another one. Otherwise it is important to seek a BAL assessment at or before the Development Plan Consent stage of the Council approval process to help guide your rebuilding at an early stage, however please note that obtaining a BAL is a requirement to ensure compliance with the National Construction Code. BAL assessments have fees attached to them, given the need for a SA CFS staff member to travel to your property and prepare a formal report. Your application should include a plan outlining your property’s boundaries and the proposed location of the dwelling. This will form the basis of the initial assessment.

A BAL assessment may determine that siting your house on a different location on your property is required to improve safety and lower construction costs. It is important to have these conversations with our trained experts and Council. At this time our trained experts can provide pre-lodgement advice about other bushfire protection requirements that need to be identified on plans prior to lodging with council, like access and fire fighting water which is described in more detail in Step 3.

Please note that a referral to the SA CFS (Step 3) will include a BAL assessment. Therefore, if you have existing plans and/or are certain about the location and construction costs and materials of your new dwelling, a separate BAL assessment may not be necessary.

Step 3: Lodgement and Approval

Once your building plans are drawn up and your Development Application is submitted to Council, if it is situated in a High Bushfire Protection Area, it will be referred to the SA Country Fire Service (SA CFS) for review and direction.

Trained experts will review all aspects of your application to ensure that your new house has the best chance (if properly maintained) of protecting your family and your assets. Conditions will be placed onto your development approval by the SA CFS regarding important things like water for fire fighting, access for emergency services, and the maintenance of an asset protection zone to reduce vegetation around your house into the future.

Our expert advice is provided back to your local Council, however, you can contact us to discuss any of the bushfire related conditions. It is important to note that these are standard conditions that exist in varying forms across Australia, and are based on significant research and experience about fire impact onto houses and other buildings.

We know that these conditions may increase your construction costs and are conscious of the impact this could have on your rebuilding efforts, however, we are committed to ensuring that our state is as prepared as it can be for future fire events.

For more information on building in bushfire prone areas, these links below provide some useful information:

Additional bushfire recovery assistance and information is available from the Australian Institute of Architects and from the Planning Institute of Australia.