Stop fire taking your home

Critical protection: "The majority of homes that are destroyed by bushfire ignite as a result of air blown embers," Fraser says.
Critical protection: "The majority of homes that are destroyed by bushfire ignite as a result of air blown embers," Fraser says.

Fraser Buchanan, owner and operator of Sapphire Coast Bushfire Sprinkler Systems, is a person of various talents.

"I have a lifetime of experience working in building and similar industries, with multiple welding, steel fabrication and general building skills," Fraser says.

Additionally, he's done many years of local satellite and TV antenna installations, and golf course irrigation. Most usefully for this feature though, he has also completed a TAFE course on bushfire protection using sprinkler systems.

Fraser says his motivation to add this extra skill came about a bit over a decade ago, initially from his own needs due to "Living in a high bushfire risk environment on the Sapphire Coast of NSW." Pambula to be specific.

"Facing the continual fear of fire looming each season," he said of the threat even the way it was over a decade ago, "it was this continual fear that inspired me to build an initial sprinkler system for my own home, of which I used a full copper system incorporating butterfly sprinklers. I then did another similar installation for someone else." Others were also interested for the same reasons and it grew from there.

Fraser believes he hasn't yet lost a home to bushfire, and it also reduces heat intensity inside.

As an example from New Year's Eve, Nerrigundah RFS fire captain Ron Threlfall told news reporters that he and 11 other residents taking shelter from the blaze in the RFS station would not have survived had the structure not been fitted with sprinklers. The shed has a system that Sapphire Coast Bushfire Sprinkler Systems installed a couple of years ago.

Every system employs its own strategy to suit the application. "Each house is very different and has individual needs," Fraser explains.

Control: The system can be activated by heat and smoke sensors, and you can also add the ability to control and monitor it remotely with a phone app.

Control: The system can be activated by heat and smoke sensors, and you can also add the ability to control and monitor it remotely with a phone app.

There are multiple considerations to take into account when designing a system Fraser says. Among them is the most likely direction of the fire threat. Another is the materials the home is built with, along with what is situated around it.

You also need to have a metal or concrete tank of stored water available to pump through the system, and the bigger, the better. If you don't already have one this can be supplied with your system.

Fraser also says that timing matters, so you don't use all your water too early, or turn it on too late. Helpfully, there are ways it can be controlled even if you're not there.

One option is heat and smoke detection can turn it on automatically. But the smoke haze in the region got so thick this past season that Fraser advised his customers to temporarily turn this feature off and activate it by other methods instead.

Current technology means that you can use a phone app to not just activate, but also control and monitor the system, including the remaining water level. Since the greatest threat is actually an ember attack, you can turn it on as a defence, and off again if the wind changes direction favourably to conserve the water reserve. You can also add cameras to the monitoring features to see what is going on outside.

Another point Fraser makes is there's no need to make a system look ugly, noting that we have a number of artistic types in the region who are quite interested in aesthetics, and have specially-designed homes of beauty in the bush. Fraser is always interested in their reaction when they see the installation for the first time. One comment he received was that his placement of piping made it look like a piece of industrial art.

"Copper blends in well," he says, and the way he makes it look "can be aesthetically pleasing".

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