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New home for bushfire survivors

The toughened flywire on the windows and external doors is designed to repel dangerous bushfire embers, as well as persistent blowflies. There are more sprinklers on the roof of the house than in the expansive pretty garden. The green garden is full of thriving plants, but the keen gardeners have decided to plant no native trees. This is the home that Graeme and Judith Weinberg built in the mountain town of Marysville after Black Saturday. It was one of the first new homes to rise from the ashes of Australia's worst bushfire disaster and the Weinbergs have just celebrated their third anniversary in it. Like anyone building a new home, the location and style of the kitchen, number of bedrooms and the ensuite design were all important considerations. But for the Weinbergs, the need to meet bushfire building rules and to build a house with many features designed to mitigate the threats posed by bushfire, was an overarching consideration. That is why five sprinklers stand above the roof, in order to wet it in the event of a fire attack. But the fire-minimisation approach starts from the ground up. The house is built on a concrete slab, so no burning material can get underneath it and ignite floorboards or timber stumps. A wide verandah wraps around most of the house, which is made of brick covered with render. The verandah posts are made of steel, not timber, the fascia running around the house is made of metal rather than timber and the eaves are much thicker than standard cement sheeting. The series of small narrow air vents around the house are covered by heavy-duty stainless steel ember guards. The Weinbergs are pleased with the bushfire safety features of the house, which was built by Alexandra building company Hedger Constructions. Mr Weinberg believes it would perform well if confronted by a bushfire. "It should do extra well because there's no wooden material outside. It's not built of any wooden material at all, apart from the framing. It has sprinklers, it has double-glazed toughened windows, it has gutter guard" he says. Mrs Weinberg says the house is "probably about the best you could have" in the event of a bushfire. "If something happens again, well, to me it's prepared as best as we could prepare it. We've met all the guidelines that they put on us, so I don't think we can do anything more", she says. Mr Weinberg says that when it comes to bushfire safety, there is no comparison between their new house and their old Marysville home, which was destroyed by the Black Saturday blaze. "For a start it's down on the ground. We had no gutter guard, no sprinklers, we only had ordinary glass in our windows", he says. "The old house had a flat roof - so whatever landed on the roof would have burnt" Mrs Weinberg says. "There's no comparison in fire protection". Builder Steven Hedger says the house would be "very very safe" if a fire were to hit the Marysville street where the Weinbergs live. "The house is virtually ember-proof", he says. "The [Murrindindi] Shire were very stringent on how we approached that house. And we actually ended up getting a fire engineer up from Melbourne and also the local building surveyor from the shire came over to discuss how we were going to do it. We got the shire involved and this [fire] engineer involved, to make sure that what we were doing ran smoothly and that we did everything correctly", he says. Source: