Building in a bushfire prone area
About Bushfire Prone Areas (BPAs)
To help protect buildings in the event of bushfire, special construction standards apply to bushfire prone areas throughout Australia. These were introduced after the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009, with the aim of reducing the devastation and damage caused by bushfire.
Who designates Bushfire Prone Areas (BPAs)?
Council does not designate Bushfire Prone Areas (BPAs) or assess Bushfire Attack Levels (BALs).
BPAs are designated by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP)
Bushfire Attack Levels (BALs) are regulated by the Victorian Building Authority (VBA)
How to request a review of a BPA designation
To request a review contact DELWP
Building or renovating in a BPA
If your land is in a designated bushfire prone area, you must get a Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) assessment before you start designing and building your new home. This assessment will establish what construction methods and requirements you need to meet to help protect the building in the event of a bushfire – ranging from protection from embers to direct flames.
Building a new home
All new homes constructed in a BPA must be built to a minimum Bushfire Attack Level (BAL). This generally includes sealing roofs, and addressing doors and windows. Higher construction levels may be required depending on the property’s BAL assessment.
Renovating an existing home
While you are not required to renovate or retrofit your home in a bushfire prone area according to legislation, you should definitely consider bushfire risk. For more information on retrofitting your home for better bushfire protection go to the VBA website.
Step 1 - Check if you are in a Bushfire Prone Area (BPA)
- Go to the Community Compass tool
- Click in the field with the magnifying glass.
- Depending on what you're searching, choose 'address', 'property number' or 'parcel SPI number'.
- Start typing in the address/property number/SPI number, wait for it to appear in the drop-down menu then select it.
- Scroll down to the 'Planning overlay’ tab and select it (tap directly on the arrow > on a mobile device). If it lists ‘Bushfire Management Overlay’ here, you're in a bushfire prone area.
Step 2 - Get an assessment of your property’s Bushfire Attack Level (BAL)
The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) recommends you get advice from your builder or private building surveyor regarding the assessment.
They will either advise you to engage an accredited assessor, or you may be able to submit this Victorian Building Authority Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) assessment report
Some plans of subdivision provide BALs however it is recommended that an assessment still be done to reduce risk.
For more information on BAL assessments go to the VBA website
In a bushfire prone area, the minimum BAL is 12.5, unless a modification to the Building Appeals Board is supported by the private building surveyor.
Bushfire Attack Levels and their predicted bushfire attack risk
|Bushire Attack Level (BAL)||Description of predicted bushfire attack and levels of exposure|
|LOW||Insufficient risk to warrant specific construction requirements|
|19||Increasing levels of ember attack and burning debris ignited by windborne embers together with increasing heat flux between 12.5 and 19 kW m²|
|29||Increasing levels of ember attack and burning debris ignited by windborne embers together with increasing heat flux between 19 and 29 kW m²|
|40||Increasing levels of ember attack and burning debris ignited by windborne embers together with increasing heat flux witht he increased likelihood of exposure to flames|
|FZ||Direct exposure to flames from fire front in addition to heat and flux ember attack|
Step 3 - Design according to the BAL assessment
Based on the outcome of the BAL assessment, your building must be designed in accordance with
Australia Standard AS3959 web page on Construction of buildings in bushfire prone areas
Consult with an architect/draftsperson or building surveyor to ensure your building meets requirements.
Council does not generally provide design advice relating to AS3959.
Difference between a BPA and Bushfire Management Overlay (BMO)
The Bushfire Management Overlay (BMO) is different to a Bushfire Prone Area (BPA).
BMOs are regulated by the Planning and Environment Act. BPAs are regulated by DELWP.
The BMO applies to land that may be significantly affected by a bushfire. If your land is in a BMO you may need a planning permit to develop or subdivide your property. New developments in a BMO must have appropriate bushfire protection measures.
To check if a property is in a Bushfire Management Overlay area follow our instructions on how to check zones and overlays for a property
If the proposed building on your property is covered by a BMO under the planning scheme or a site assessment for the planning permit applies, the building must be constructed according to the Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) specified on the planning permit. The building surveyor must accept that BAL to determine the construction requirements that apply to the building.
For more information on Bushfire Management Overlays contact our Statutory Planning Department on 1300 787 624
Replacing buildings damaged by fire
The Victorian Government is streamlining the process for rebuilding homes destroyed by bushfire by removing the need for a planning permit where possible.
For many properties, you do not need a planning permit to build a private bushfire shelter (maximum size: 30 square metres). However this does not apply to land within the Urban Floodway Zone, Erosion Management Overlay, Floodway Overlay, Land Subject to Inundation Overlay, Special Building Overlay or Heritage Overlay.
More information and advice
Designation in Bushfire Prone Areas: Contact the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) on 136 186
BAL assessments: Contact the Victorian Building Authority (VBA)
For other information on building in a bushfire prone area contact our Building team on 1300 787 624