Prevent fires with “Gutterplug”

Bushfires and their devastating effects on property are part of the Australian condition – but a new device can help homeowners prevent house fires and live to tell the tale…

Following the recent spate of tragic fires in NSW, Victoria and other pockets of the continent, there is an acute awareness of the suddenness and violence of firestorms and the damage they can inflict on homes and property. In response to the ongoing threat of fires and resulting property losses, NSW resident Noel Douglass has created and produced the “Gutterplug”, now being marketed through Mitre 10 (mainly NSW at this stage) and selected hardware stores.

The Gutterplug can save homes from destruction by fire

The Gutterplug is a simple and straightforward stopper that fits into the entrance of downpipes in household gutters. When a roof is hosed down, the Gutterplug acts like a cork in the downpipe and stops water from draining out of the gutters. Flooded gutters at the roofline form an important safety barrier against smouldering embers, and also serve to immerse dangerous accumulations of dry leaf matter and twigs.

It’s a simple and effective device – just as a product should be when a resident might have only a few minutes to act before the arrival of a fire. “As a rural property owner, I am well aware of the danger and heartache caused by fire,” says Douglass. “While living in the bush, when fire threatened we would plug the downpipes of our homes with rags and fill the gutters with water in an effort to prevent embers and flaming debris from igniting our roofs.

“Whilst talking to a firefighter, he told me about an incident in the Blue Mountains where he had taken a T-shirt off a clothes line to plug a downpipe – only to be told by the owner that it was his favourite shirt! It occurred to me that there was a need for a product designed specifically for this purpose, so I set out to research, design and market the multi-purpose Gutterplug.”

Contrary to many people’s perceptions of bushfires, most home destruction during a bushfire is caused by “ember attack”. According to Douglass, an approaching fire carries with it airborne flaming debris, much of which can travel long distances and land in roof guttering. This can occur 30 minutes before the arrival of a front and as long as eight hours after it has passed. While clean gutters can reduce the risk of embers taking hold, even brand new and empty gutters are by no means a guarantee of safety.

“Many of the embers and flaming debris that are carried by the wind collect in guttering and remain unextinguished,” he says. “Thermal convection can then draw the embers into the dry, dust-filled roof cavity where a fire will remain unseen until it is too late. Authorities state this is the cause of 85% of homes being destroyed!”

The Gutterplug is attached to a lengthy plastic strip handle, at the opposite end of which is a handy leaf guard for the downpipe. The beauty of this design is that the Gutterplug can remain permanently where it is most needed – in the gutter at the downpipe – and fulfil a useful purpose even if there is no imminent threat of fire. If a resident is away from home or has been evacuated from the site, firefighters can quickly see and insert the Gutterplug without wasting valuable time.

By having Gutterplugs installed, the odds of losing your home are greatly reduced, and with the current price of homes, owners living in fire-prone areas should consider using the plugs as one of their many strategies against disaster. Gutterplugs can be ordered directly from Noel Douglass, managing director Gutterplug Australia, on (02) 9625 2645.

Story by John Power