Urban Fire

Urban Fire

What is Urban Fire?

Urban fires can be caused maliciously, by accident, or as the result of an unforeseen ignition. Fires may also be the result of a natural cause such as earthquakes or lightning. The most common cause of fire in the home is cooking. However all causes can be just as deadly, here are some common examples:

  • Smoking (dropping lit cigarettes or leaving matches and lighters within reach of children)
  • Faulty electrical appliances or wiring
  • Clothes dryers or any other mechanical household equipment
  • Electric blankets
  • Candles
  • Home heating (flammable items too close to heaters or open fires)
  • Chemical spillages

What can I do?


Roles and responsibilities
The National Strategy for Disaster Resilience, developed by the Council of Australian Governments, provides high-level guidance on disaster management to agencies with a role in emergency management.  Foremost in the Strategy is the principle of all of society taking responsibility for preventing disasters.

In the context of Urban Fire:

People should be aware of their own fire risks and should follow advice from emergency services when responding to warnings.

MFS Website

CFS Website

To increase community resilience, individuals should actively plan and prepare for protecting their own life and property.  Resilience is also increased by knowing and being involved in local community disaster or emergency management arrangements, and volunteer role.

Act safely
The following tips will help you to prevent the outbreak of fire:

Kitchen safety
The kitchen may be the biggest fire hazard and fire starter in your home. A high level of diligence is required when cooking to ensure you adequately manage the risk of fire.

  • Cooking food should never be left unattended
  • Check your appliances regularly for cracks or worn electrical cords
  • Make sure curtains and towels are always clear of heat sources
  • Have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen
  • The stove is not counter space and nothing should be left on top of the stove

Electrical Safety

  • Have your system checked and maintained regularly
  • Be proactive about electrical cords and appliances
  • Make sure you do not run extension cords under rugs or in high traffic areas.
  • Cords should not be touching nails or screws.
  • Keep items away from outlets.
  • Make sure the outlets and extension cords are not overloaded.

Store flammables properly

  • Combustibles should be stored in well ventilated areas and in the proper container
  • Keep combustibles in the shed away from potential heat “triggers.”
  • Any rags or materials that have had contact with those flammable materials should be immediately disposed of
  • Matches and lighters need to have their own special place away from heat and small curious fingers and eyes.

Don't skip chimney maintenance

  • Inspect your chimney regularly, and clean them before "fire season" each year
  • Keep your wood stoves, pellet stoves, and fireplaces clean and in good
  • Check regularly to be sure that branches and leaves are kept away from the chimney area
  • Your chimney should also be at least 3 feet taller than your roof, insulated, and have a spark arrestor on top.
  • Look into purchasing a Chimney Fire Suppressant device that puts out chimney fires when its smoke emissions rise up the flue to replace the oxygen. This is a good safety measure to have available even if you keep your chimney in good repair.

Smart Landscaping
Fires don’t just start inside your home. Outside maintenance can help prevent fires that start or enter your property from getting to your house.

  • Keep landscaping well-watered, clean, and well-spaced
  • Don’t neglect your roof and keep gutters clean, especially of dry leaves.
  • Keep your Driveway clear of overgrowth and clutter
  • Make sure a fire truck can get unobstructed access to your property.

Maintain your vacant block
Unmaintained vacant blocks can cause a number of issues to neighbouring properties, they detract aesthetically from the local area, encourage illegal dumping and they increase the opportunity for urban fire.

Council regularly conduct fire prevention inspections across the Council Area under the Fire and Emergency Services Act 2005.  These inspections can identify properties that require works to be carried out to reduce the threat of fire to life or property.

The easiest way to maintain your vacant blocks is to engage a contractor who can slash/cut the vegetation on the block regularly.

Government agencies, local governments and communities
Organisations should include Fire risk within their Community Emergency Risk Assessment activities. This includes consideration within emergency management planning and land use planning.

Resilience is developed through land management and planning arrangements, assessment of risks, supporting individuals and communities to prepare for extreme events, and having effective education programs available.

Additional prevention tasks carried out by state and local government include:

  • Risk assessments to gain an appreciation of fire risk;
  • Engaging with the community regarding fire risk;
  • Working with communities to plan the management of urban fire risk;
  • Providing emergency information and fire warnings;
  • Ensuring an effective, well-coordinated response to an Urban Fire event
  • Helping communities to recover and learn following an earthquake and build their resilience to future events

Private Industry and businesses
Businesses play a fundamental role in supporting a community’s resilience to disasters. They provide resources, expertise and essential services on which the community may depend. Businesses, including critical infrastructure providers, can also make a contribution by understanding the risks that they face and ensuring that they are able to continue providing services during or soon after a disaster

Businesses should plan for the risk of disruption, and ensure arrangements are in place to maintain critical services where required.

The links below are designed to help businesses plan for emergency situations:
Business Continuity Plans – A quick guide to impact analysis and plan development
Plan and prepare – State Government advice on how to protect your business

For additional information about Urban Fire:You may also like: How to store fuel for emergencies
SAPOL How to prepare for a Disaster (PDF)
Community Fire Safety Advice



Things you can do now to prepare for an Urban Fire event:

Understand your risk

Fire Notifications 
Whilst it is not possible to predict the timing and size of a fire, fire notifications are provided by the MFs and CFS, who monitor and report on fires within South Australia. This is done on a 24/7 basis for the purposes of emergency warnings to alert governments, emergency services and the general public of emergency situations.

For MFS emergency incident, such as structure fire, bushfire, chemical spill, gas leak and smoke in the community you can visit the current MFS Media Releases or connect to the MFS Twitter account for current and up to date warnings

Bushfire incidents
For current Bushfire information and warnings for incidents in Country Fire Service (CFS) or Metropolitan Fire Service (MFS) area:

For more up to date information you can visit the CFS website, CFS Twitter and Facebook accounts or you can Call the Bushfire Information Hotline on 1300 362 361

Household plans 
The South Australian Emergency Management Sector encourages every household, business and farm to have a written emergency plan.

Prepare an Escape Plan
Every home should have a fire escape plan; you should be prepared to escape under toxic smoke if necessary; here are some tips that could save your life in a house fire:

  • The first priority is to get out of a burning house choose the route with the least smoke and heat
  • When there is smoke, always crawl low to get under the smoke
  • Consider two means of escape from each room (windows and screens should be easily opened)
  • Provide alternatives for anyone with a disability
  • Close internal doors (if safe to do so) to prevent fire and smoke from spreading.
  • Once outside move to a safe place and phone Triple Zero (000).
  • Once out, STAY OUT, never go back inside a burning building.
  • Practice your plan
  • Make sure everyone in your house knows the plan.
  • Learn and practice your building's evacuation plan.
  • If you hear the fire alarm, leave immediately.
  • Use the stairs - NEVER use a lift/elevator during a fire.
  • Further information about safe living in high rise buildings

If you live in an apartment building
It is worthwhile having a plan for what you would do if your usual way of living is disrupted for several days. Here are some suggestions of things you can do to prepare for being homeless after a fire:

  • Put together an emergency kit  - See our guide in the links section
  • Be sure to have temporary care lined up for your pets
  • Fix potential hazards in your home or business
  • Investigate your insurance policy
  • Create a list of the contents in your house complete with photographs. This will be useful for insurance claims and tax deductions following an event.
  • Find a fast and safe route to a place where you can get to safety in your home, place of work and school.

The information below will help you further assess your situation and prepare for a fire

Smoke detectors

  • Install smoke alarms inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement
  • On levels without bedrooms, install alarms in the living room (or den or family room) or near the stairway to the upper level, or in both locations
  • Smoke alarms installed in the basement should be installed on the ceiling at the bottom of the stairs leading to the next level
  • Smoke alarms should be installed at least 10 feet (3 meters) from a cooking appliance to minimize false alarms when cooking
  • Mount smoke alarms high on walls or ceilings (remember, smoke rises). Wall-mounted alarms should be installed not more than 12 inches away from the ceiling (to the top of the alarm)

Teach your family fire safety
Teaching your family about fire safety is a way you can help with fire prevention, you should teach them about possible fire hazards and to be aware of their actions.

  • Teach your children how and when to call triple zero – 000
  • Practice a fire drill with them at home
  • Educate them about risks of fire in the home, for example:
    • Placing clothing over a lamp
    • Leaving a blanket too close to a heater
    • Using an oven or bar-b-que

The CFS provides an activity book for children which can help you start the conversation. There are also a large number of fire safety apps, eBooks, lesson plans, and other fun ways to teach kids about fire safety available online.

Build to Australia’s Building Codes
Australia’s building codes set out data and procedures for determining fire safety in structures and their components, whilst detailing minimum requirements for structures. Councils are responsible for ensuring the application of building code provisions. Please make sure you Contact Council if you require assistance from our Development, planning and building services. Find out more about what Council can do to assist you

Protect your finances
Emergencies are really expensive and can become a significant long-term burden. To ensure that your finances are safeguarded you can protect your main income source by taking out life insurance and income protection insurance.

You should also give consideration to the costs of cleaning up damaged property and replacing lost items to protect your family if the household is affected by an emergency.



Who do I Contact?
To report an emergency or life threatening situation call 000 (triple zero)

In the event of a severe fire, SA Police will be the control agency responsible for managing the emergency response. Such an event is likely to involve a whole-of-government response. Further information on who to contact in an Emergency can be found on our printable Emergency Contact List Don't overload phone lines with non-emergency calls. If you must use your mobile phone do it with text

Control Agency (Response and Recovery) SA Police (SAPOL)

Hazard Leader (Prevention and Preparation) Metropolitan Fire Service or Country Fire Service

If you discover a fire

Follow advice or directions given by the emergency services.

Act Safely:

For a Small Fire (bin sized)

  • Raise the alarm and then call 000 (triple zero)
  • Alert people in the area to begin evacuation
  • Assist those with disabilities
  • If you know how to use a fire extinguisher and have a clear exit path behind you, extinguish the fire. Never put water on a grease or electrical fire

When an Earthquake Happens

For a Large Fire

  • Raise the alarm and then call 000 (triple zero)
  • Alert people in the area to begin evacuation
  • Assist those with disabilities
  • Follow your evacuation plan
  • Go to your designated assembly area, away and upwind from the building
  • Await response from the Fire Brigade

Never re-enter a burning building

Chemical Fires
Given the large amount of industrial zones in the City of Port Adelaide Enfield including a large petro-chemical Terminal there is a real risk of fire originating from a chemical spill.  This may also include explosion risk.

In the event of a chemical fire

If you are the first on the scene:

  • Dial Triple Zero (000) and ask for Fire. provide as much information as you can without endangering yourself
    • Address of incident
    • Name of chemical involved if known
    • Estimate the amount of chemical spilt
    • Form of chemical (solid, liquid, gas)
    • Details of any people affected or injured
    • Details of any vehicles involved
  • Notify people in the immediate vicinity
  • Stay away from accident victims until the hazardous chemical has been identified and it's safe to approach them.
  • Try to remain upwind of the smoke
  • Don't touch or breathe in any smoke

If there is nowhere to shelter:

  • Remain upwind, uphill and upstream.
  • Avoid low lying areas (some hazardous gases and vapours are heavier than air and will accumulate in these areas).
  • Do not approach the spill or walk through the chemical
  • Try not to inhale gases, fumes or smoke. Cover your nose and mouth with a cloth.

Follow all instructions given to you by emergency services
If the area you are in is unsafe, make every effort to move yourself to a safe location.

If you are told to shelter inside:

  • Go inside as quickly as possible
  • Shut all external windows and doors and turn off all heating and cooling
  • Take with you:
    • your family and pets
    • emergency kit with food and water supplies
    • your mobile phone and charger
  • If necessary create a safe room:
    • Shut the internal doors
    • Seal areas where air can get in (use wet towels or clothing to block gaps)
    • close curtains and blinds
  • Tune into your local ABC radio station for information and updates.

Carbon dioxide will build up in a sealed room, dependant on the size of the room and the number of people in it. Contaminated air from outside will also gradually seep into the room, when this happens evacuation from the area is recommended.

When evacuating:

  • Don't leave the shelter unless you are told to do so by emergency services.
  • Follow instructions from emergency services and associated authorities
  • follow your emergency plan and take your emergency kit with you

Vulnerable people

Remember that hospitals, aged care facilities and schools may also be affected by the event and may need the support of the community.

Your own support group of friends, family and neighbours may not be available to you as they could have to manage their own recovery efforts

For more information of what to do in a fire:

Home Fire Escape Plan - Metropolitan Fire Service

SA Government – House Fire Advice



All agencies will work in a swift, compassionate and pragmatic way to help communities recover from devastation. Communities will need to learn, innovate and adapt in the aftermath of disastrous events.

  • Don't move a seriously injured person unless they're in immediate danger
  • For life-threatening injuries call 000 (Triple zero)

After a fire check your environment

After escaping a fire, your surroundings may have changed:

  • Check yourself for injury.
  • Check your property and utilities for damage
  • Do not wait for an official warning before moving to a safe place.
  • Evacuate if necessary if the building is severely damaged, get out straight away
  • If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise:
    • open windows
    • don't use any electrical appliances as they create a spark
    • turn off the gas at the meter or bottle
    • Take any immediate action to prevent further injury
    • Check your environment for hazards such as broken glass and objects in your way Furniture may have shifted
    • Your pets may be frightened or injured after an event.   There is also increased risk of injury to their paws and debris on the ground

Once you are assured of the safety of your family, co-workers, employees, etc. and the fire has been fully extinguished, check with your fire department to ensure your home or business is safe to enter before you begin to assess the damage.

Check your Home is Safe to stay in
The Fire Officer in Charge should be able to tell you if it is safe to stay or not. In some situations it may be necessary for the Officer to call a council building inspector to assess the safety of the building.  If this is the case, please do not stay in the property until the inspector has been to visit.

Cleaning up
Smoke and water can damage your house and contents.  You should arrange for a specialist companies for cleaning, salvage and removal of damaged items and materials. You are also able to arrange for Council hard Rubbish collections if needed.

Here are some general cleaning tips:

  • Open windows to ventilate areas. Use a fan to circulate air
  • Dry wet items as soon as possible
  • Take non-washable clothing and curtains to a drycleaner
  • Wash regular clothing in warm water with detergent
  • To remove soot and smoke from walls, furniture and floors, wear rubber gloves and wash with detergent
  • Electrical appliances exposed to fire or water will need to be checked by an electrician or technician prior to use

Pets Everything you will need to know about managing your pets in an emergency can be found on the RSPCA website

Utilities Supply
As a result of the fire, gas, electricity, water supply or telephone lines may have been damaged, destroyed or disconnected. It is the property owner’s responsibility to have the services inspected, repaired and reconnected.

Property security

After the emergency services have finished their work, the property will be handed back to you. 
You are then responsible for the security of the property.

Your property may be at risk to damage by weather or theft and vandalism.  You may need to engage a provider of shutters and/or temporary fencing to secure your home.  Your insurance company may be able to help with the cost of securing your property.

Be aware that any damage to your home that occurs after the emergency resulting from not securing your property may be refused by your insurance company.


If you have insurance it will be the most important aspect of recovering your property and possessions from a fire contact your insurer as early as possible. Ask your insurer for advice on actions you should take.

  • Do not discard or throw away damaged items without first consulting your insurance company
  • Make a list of items that have been damaged and take photographs if possible
  • Keep receipts for any emergency repair work
  • Check with your insurance company to see if your policy covers emergency accommodation

If you cannot return home

The Department of Human Services
The SA Housing Authority Department can assist with accommodation in crisis situations. The department brings together a range of services and policies designed to support vulnerable people and to help build resilient communities. More information can be found on these services can be found on the SA Gov website.

This department also offers a large number of services designed to assist you in recovering from an emergency situation including relocation and displacement advice, information on Volunteering and support to replace documentation. Find out more about how they can help you by visiting their Disaster Recovery website Disaster Recovery website.

Other offerings provided include Youth Justice, Disability and Reform, and Community and Support services.

Before you leave the property it is recommended you take the following items:

  • Identification – driver’s licence, Medicare card, passport
  • Insurance contact details and policies
  • Credit cards, cheque books
  • Medicines and prescriptions (medication exposed to heat and smoke should be disposed of)
  • Personal aids – mobility aids, glasses, hearing aids, etc
  • Valuables – personal items such as jewellery, photographs, cash, laptops, etc
  • Legal documentation
  • Car keys and house keys
  • Mobile phone and charger

Notify important contacts about your change of address such as employer, children’s schools, insurance company and neighbours and contact local police to inform them that your property has been involved in a fire and is vacant.

Where to stay?
If you can’t remain in your property, staying with family, friends or neighbours until more permanent arrangements can be made is the best option. Some insurance policies may also cover the cost of accommodation so check with your insurer.

Non-government organisations and Volunteers
Many NGO’s organise volunteers during the recovery stages of a disaster and Australians often turn to them for support or advice and the dedicated work of these agencies and organisations is critical to helping communities to cope with, and recover from, a disaster. Australian governments will continue to partner with these agencies and organisations to spread the disaster resilience message and to find practical ways to strengthen disaster resilience in the communities they serve.

If you would like to volunteer to help in any way after a large scale Earthquake event please contact one of the following organisations:

Gawler Council - http://www.gawler.sa.gov.au/
Red Cross - https://www.redcross.org.au/

Your wellbeing 
It is normal and very common for people who have been through a stressful event to experience anxiety, grief, sadness, anger, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.  This reaction could be more severe in children and the elderly.  Understanding that these are normal responses an abnormal event can aid you in coping effectively with your feelings, thoughts, and behaviours, and help you along the path to recovery.  Below are some tips for looking after you:

  • Take time to recognise that you have been through an extremely stressful event
  • Accept help if it is offered
  • Get plenty of rest, even if you can’t sleep, eat regular, healthy meals and exercise every day
  • Make time to relax and to focus on your self-care
  • Try to resume normal activities as soon as possible (but don’t overdo it)

Protecting your finances
There might be financial assistance available from governments and other agencies after an emergency; it’s usually small and targeted at immediate needs. It won’t be enough to replace your home or valuables. Thinking about how you can cover financial losses caused by an emergency will save you a lot of stress and burden.

If you have insurance cover for your property and possessions, contact your insurer as early as possible.

Emergency and disaster assistance
The following contact details may be useful in the recovery stages of an earthquake:

National Disaster Assistance

  • Australian Government disaster recovery assistance hotline call 180 2266
  • Disaster Recovery Payment Can provide a one-off, non-means tested payment for eligible adults and children who have been adversely affected by a major disaster.
  • Disaster Assist Provides information on assistance for current disasters.
  • National Registration and Inquiry System - NRIS registers, finds and reunites family, friends and loved ones after an emergency. It is managed and operated by Australian Red Cross.
  • People evacuated in an emergency (or people trying to locate family or friends) can phone the Red Cross Inquiry Centre on 1800 727 077 for callers in Australia or international callers on +61 393 283991.

Long Term Recovery
There may be instances where recovery from a disaster can take longer than anticipated. Be prepared!

While no one likes to talk about it, emergencies can cause loss of life. This can have emotional and practical impact to you and those around you. Ensuring you have life insurance and an up to date Will can help to ease the burden on those left behind.

There may also be things that affect you normal daily routine such as:

School and child care closures
Enforced work place closures
Injury or disability caused by the emergency event

The following contacts are always available (not just in an emergency) to help those in need:


For further information on this topic, or if you have any questions, please call our helpful Customer Services team on 8522 9211 or email us at council@gawler.sa.gov.au.