The Bushfire Bunker Finished

Years ago – after the 09 BushFires – there was all this discussion about BUSHFIRE BUNKERS. Dierderek at that time posted – to say that he was building a bukner. Adn the days went by he sent me images of the bunker he was building. More recently there was a comment-query in my blog post of 2009 – asking if Dierderek had finished the bunker. Dierderek wrote to me soon after to ask if I would like to post up the latest images. So here it is.

This is Dierderek’s description: “The bunker has been finished for quite a while now and has settled into the country side very well. The Besser block air lock and smoke door went on with a minimum of fuss and we have practised sitting in it for a period of time. We have stocked it with food and water and sleeping gear (in case we lose the house). The metal file drawer is for insurance and personal effects. The sign is a personal touch and present from my Mother in law. I feel we have created an escape from a large fire and, at the least, i have not been complacent.”










A Bunker Building Story

Hello Soumitri,
A short story on shipping container fire bunkers,

The myths surrounding container fire bunkers E.G they will become an oven etc can be summed up in one word, horse…..

Once they are in the ground they are cool as a cucumber. It is true that soil is the best insulator. So a few things I have learnt doing this project.  First and foremost buy a good, I mean GOOD container, if it already has a lot of dents and rust it will make your job twice as hard. To many dents make it prone to crush easier and a lot of rust means more work for you sanding it off after it has been delivered (make sure you unload it close to the hole) you can begin your reinforcing. We used 100mm x 50mm square steel and it was 5mm thick. I am glad we did as the container crushed a fraction and we had to weld more reinforcing on the inside. For the roof we put a length of 100mmx50mm down the middle and a “c” purling on top of it,then one either side at a gap of 450mm to take the corrugated iron roof. I am also glad we did this as the roof would have sagged quite considerably with the soil on top of it. Next comes the bitumizing which must be done on a hot day otherwise it does not flow. It took one person 6 hours to do this. We did the roof as well. Next was solving the problem of being able to close the door from the inside. This turned out to be simple, we took the closing  bars,which seals the door shut, and ground of the closing mechanisms on the outside, so they could not operate. We then welded two angles, one on each door, on the inside, and dropped a large piece of timber across it like an old castle door I guess. This insures you can’t get locked in. It hasn’t sealed 100% but I am confident with a little bit of fiddling , it will. Marking out the hole was simple but don’t expect to get it with an even 200mm fill gap around for your rock-fill. With a massive excavator digging it out, it just doesn’t work that way. Allow extra rock. We made sure the  bottom of the hole was sloping  down to allow for water runoff . We leveled the bottom of the hole with 50mm blue metal and lowered the container in. That was one of the easiest tasks. We put industrial plastic over the roof and started the backfilling. It truly was a shock that the walls bowed, even if it was only marginal. We are confident with the new centre support in place nothing more will move. You will notice in the photos the supports for the retainer walls on the top and sides, this stops the soil from slipping until the front airlock is built. I will take my time doing the airlock as I don’t  like block laying much. So, cost so far.
1) container…2,600
2) steel………1,000
3) blocks…..1,000 with cement
4) bitumen…180.00
5) excavator and blue metal…3,000
6).odds & sods…200.00
The welder was a friend and worked for barter, the rest my wife and i did and will do. Labour has not been factored in.
I will post more photos when it is complete.


Images of the BushFire Bunker Installation

For Images of the finished Bunker and Dierderek’s latest description Click here: Images of Bunker Finished 2011

Melting Human Flesh

This one is for Barbara – I was at this public event and someone comes up to you and says, ‘hey that thing, that bunker thing. I am watching that space for ideas’. It felt good. For the faint voice is committed to stay hidden and only talk about the small and the hidden.

If you have been reading the papers in Melbourne – I have collected the first ten days of the papers – you will see a few things happening, I will open up and explain what the ‘experts’ are saying. Now remember I am not an expert, just a voice (and a faint one at that).

What did the fire department person say? The stay and fight policy has to be reviewed – should we go the way of California and forcibly evacuate. Then we must not build in the bush – period. Not worth the loss of life and the continuous bushfire fighting that the CFA has to do.Head of bushfires inquiry abandons stay-and-defend policy | Herald Sun

THE head of the Royal Commission into the Victorian bushfires has already abandoned the stay-and-defend policy as fires rage near his property at Daylesford.

What did the Architects and Town Planners say? They told me bunkers – were such a knee jerk reaction. We need new building codes and building regulations for building in the bush.

Bushfire tragedy rewrites rules for architects – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

But at the same time, architects are starting to wonder whether any building could be safe in the sort of fires seen over the weekend.

We must avoid “knee-jerk” building: bushfire architect

Taking appropriate design measures might minimise the future damage from bushfires, but Victoria should avoid a “knee-jerk reaction” in rebuilding, Tim Whitefield, MD at the Collingwood-based practice Whitefield McQueen Irwin Alsop told Architecture & Design.

What did the politicians say? A bit of everything. Sometimes this sometimes that.

Bushfire management: where to from here – On Line Opinion – 13/2/2009

In the longer term I would hope for an honest admission that large, horrible bushfires are a consequence of failed policies, failed leadership and failed administration (at all levels), plus the fact that Australians still do not realise that the Australian bush is designed to burn. I have seen enough of politicians, academics and government agencies in my time to doubt any real admissions of failure will be made.

PM playing politics with Victoria bushfires disaster | The Australian

KEVIN Rudd has dragged politics into the Victorian bushfire disaster to put pressure on the Coalition to pass his politically charged $42 billion economic stimulus package.

What did the forrest department say? They said the environmentalists have caused this – by not lettig us do controlled burning. Or that we must control nature and not have pristine natural habitat. You would have seen Bob Brown on TV saying no – this is just a simplistic statement of the greens position. That they never advocated ‘do not touch the forrest’.
Greenies blamed for Victoria bushfires’ scale | The Australian

THE green movement was yesterday blamed for the severity of the Victorian fires that cost so many lives and ruined so much property.

And so it goes. Or in Vonnegut’s words – poo wee tweet.

This stuff I have reproduced below is the other fear that bunkers are not safe for they can be traps. And some have pointed to Dresden as an example- especially citing Vonnegut’s account where he says; “As the heat intensified, they either disintegrated into cinders or melted into a thick liquid–often three or four feet deep in spots.”. Well that is not a good example to cite. Dresden was a special case and not a fire storm at all. See the link below for the full story – or better still go out and buy Slaughterhouse Five.

The WWII Dresden Holocaust – ‘A Single Column Of Flame’

Others hiding below ground died. But they died painlessly–they simply glowed bright orange and blue in the darkness. As the heat intensified, they either disintegrated into cinders or melted into a thick liquid–often three or four feet deep in spots.

Shortly after 10:30 on the morning of February 14, the last raid swept over the city. American bombers pounded the rubble that had been Dresden for a steady 38 minutes. But this attack was not nearly as heavy as the first two.

However, what distinguished this raid was the cold-blooded ruthlessness with which it was carried out. U.S. Mustangs appeared low over the city, strafing anything that moved, including a column of rescue vehicles rushing to the city to evacuate survivors. One assault was aimed at the banks of the Elbe River, where refugees had huddled during the horrible night.

In the last year of the war, Dresden had become a hospital town. During the previous night’s massacre, heroic nurses had dragged thousands of crippled patients to the Elbe. The low-flying Mustangs machine-gunned those helpless patients, as well as thousands of old men, women and children who had escaped the city.

When the last plane left the sky, Dresden was a scorched ruin, its blackened streets filled with corpses. The city was spared no horror. A flock of vultures escaped from the zoo and fattened on the carnage. Rats swarmed over the piles of corpses.

A Swiss citizen described his visit to Dresden two weeks after the raid: “I could see torn-off arms and legs, mutilated torsos and heads which had been wrenched from their bodies and rolled away. In places the corpses were still lying so densely that I had to clear a path through them in order not to tread on arms and legs.”

Bushfire management: where to from here – On Line Opinion – 13/2/2009

To me, the most fundamental question is not whether we will have bushfires in the future. Of course we will. This is Australia, not the soft green hills of England. The real question is what sort of fires will we have.

Shipping Container forum discussions

Self Service Science – ABC Science Online Forum

Well what materials and designs would be best
for building a fire storm resistant house?

Would a cellar or underground room need to be part of the plan.

How can people build houses to have the best type of fire plans built in to their situation?

Self Service Science – ABC Science Online Forum

The wombat hole story.. shows that all that really is required is a couple of bolt holes with good doors and sound enough structure to remain ready for use at any given instant over at least two decades.. With that extra bolt hole most of the dead could have been alive now.


Why build bunkers?
Why not be a hobbit if one wants to live in the forest shire?
Build the whole house underground and keep the top well greened with fire retarding species.

Underground fireproof bunkers – Aussie Stock Forums

With what has happened in Vic, this thread might be relevant.

I personally own a remote rural block, surrounded by State forest.

I only have minimal structures at present, partially due to bushfire risk!

Does anyone have any knowledge or opinions about underground fireproof bunkers?

My idea would be to excavate a pit, waterproof and concrete surround, with a fairly thick earth roof ( at ground level), with a small fireproof trapdoor.

Ventilation would be by above ground steel flue pipe.

I am fairly sure that heat would not be a problem, but air quality may be.

I am almost certain that survive-abilty would be much higher than any other option, if you are trapped from escaping by fire.

When I build a permanent house, it will be rendered concrete block, steel, and gal roof, but I know gal roofs cannot withstand a really serious blaze,
( as evidenced by the footage from Vic).

I intend to do some research on the topic, so any tips would be good.

I believe many lives could have been saved if they had such an escape.

does anyone know what happened to persons in Dresden etc during firestorms, as they seemed to retreat to underground bunkers during bombing

Underground fireproof bunkers – Aussie Stock Forums

A lot of people just put a shipping container underground

Underground fireproof bunkers – Aussie Stock Forums

The bunker, dug into an earth embankment with 15-centimetre concrete walls and a $1000 fireproof door, saved their lives and that of their son, Raphael, 14 months. “It was like a firestorm, it was like a raging inferno. It’s a cliche, but that is what it was like,” Ms Berry said.

When flames engulfed their home they wrapped themselves in wet towels and sprinted to the bunker. “We couldn’t shut the door of the bunker, it was that buckled and warped,” Mr Berry said. “The embers were coming through the gap, it was like the fire was coming to get us.”

Underground fireproof bunkers – Aussie Stock Forums

I reckon fire bunkers will start to become mandatory in certain areas.
Somebody might start up a business and make fire bunker kits.
They might start making them under water tanks too!

Life saver | Herald Sun Andrew Bolt Blog

Keith Crews is a professor of structural engineering at the school of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Technology in Sydney. Professor Crews … says that underground bunkers could be the answer to protecting people from fires like those Victoria has just witnessed.

“You would need something that is essentially underground because of the insulating quality of the earth,” he said. “Obviously you would need something over the top of that that’s quite well protected.

“The next issue that I think you would have to consider is oxygen or air because when you get a fire storm like that it’s got a tendency to suck up all the air that’s there… The earth is a great insulator. Obviously you would have to give consideration to groundwater and all those issues, but I would assume that something like two to 2.5 metres, so essentially it was like a basement,” he said…

Professor Ross also believes the design of underground car parks could be enhanced to offer communities a safe place to wait out bushfires in larger groups. He says building fire bunkers could be something that becomes mandatory in parts of Australia.

Bunker Stories

Bushfires near Drouin

I started a conversation with people about designers and architects contributing sketches to a compilation of drawings of bunkers. In Kinglake and other areas people often build their own houses – and so the sketches would form an idea bank that can become the basis of inspiration. Or just offer up an archive of options. The response was heartening – and so this project of collecting bunker sketches is on.

Contribute your drawing – write in to me – with your sketch.

‘It’s like a war zone up here’ – National News – National – General – The Canberra Times

Nicole Berry was still wearing the purple bikini she was saved in. “I don’t own any underwear,” she laughed.

At seven months pregnant, she had nagged her husband to build a fire bunker behind the water tank, worried that sprinklers would not do enough to protect their timber home.

Her husband, Andrew Berry, recalled saying to her: “Stop nagging, I’ll build the bloody thing.”

The bunker, dug into an earth embankment with 15-centimetre concrete walls and a $1000 fireproof door, saved their lives and that of their son, Raphael, 14 months. “It was like a firestorm, it was like a raging inferno. It’s a cliche, but that is what it was like,” Ms Berry said.

When flames engulfed their home they wrapped themselves in wet towels and sprinted to the bunker. “We couldn’t shut the door of the bunker, it was that buckled and warped,” Mr Berry said. “The embers were coming through the gap, it was like the fire was coming to get us.”

Fireproof living | Herald Sun

BUSHFIRE-resistant houses could protect future generations of Victorians after our worst natural disaster.

Housing experts have drawn up plans they hope will become the blueprint for new homes to be built in areas wiped out by the bushfires.

The homes would offer Victorians in high-risk areas unprecedented protection from flames, smoke, wind, radiant heat and ember attacks.

Build schools with fire bunkers: MP | Herald Sun

SCHOOLS may need to be built with bunkers to keep children safe from bushfires, Victorian federal MP Fran Bailey says.

The recent bushfires have destroyed some schools and kindergartens in Ms Bailey’s electorate of McEwen, which was the epicentre of the fires.

“Just imagine if that fire had happened on the previous Wednesday (when children were in school) and not the Saturday,” The Liberal MP told ABC Television.

“All of those schools that were just demolished in that fire … it’s just too horrific to really dwell on that.”

Hardened Structures
Source –

On the radio today I heard a survivor of the bushfire describe an underground shelter (bunker?). And how they were all safe below the ground as the fire raged overhead. This sent me off on a search for such spaces – and I came across this company that has an appropriate name and is in business to do provide just the space needed – to shelter from monster fire storms.

The image below – shows bunks, kitchen and work space all with battery backup no doubt.

Now I wonder if this is a line of business that is going to be lucrative in the coming months and years in Victoria and possibly all of Australia. What will the solution for the current floods in Queensland look like?

Bunkers & fortified homes for global warming, natural disasters & terrorist attacks

order to prepare for terrorist attacks, global warming, major disasters
and other emergencies, it is impossible to maintain the highest level
of preparedness for all possibilities all of the time. Given limited
resources, managing the risk posed by major events is imperative. In an
atmosphere of changing and evolving threats, resiliience and
preservation are the cornerstones and it is vital to build structures
that will enable the Client to prevent, respond to and recover from
wide a range of major events.

In an atmosphere of changing and evolving threats, resiliience and preservation are the cornerstones and it is vital to build structures that will enable the Client to prevent, respond to and recover from wide a range of major events.

We address these challenges by employing a Multi-Hazard Engineering methodology that not only recognizes individual hazards/threats sequentially but also address all hazards/threats simultaneously as a problem of optimization under constraints. The facility can be protected against a wide range of threats including forced entry, climate change, chemical/biological/radiological/explosive (CBRE) agents, airblast, ground shock, penetration, fragmentation and damage to the structure and equipment due to explosive loading.

Along with the Client’s particular living, function and storage requirements, the designs also incorporate active defense and manned and mechanical responses to reduce or limit the effectiveness of any given threat along with individual/family long term living requirements.

Stated simply, a Hardened Structure is where you go when external forces are threatening your life. In most disasters the first forty eight hours are the most critical to survival and many lethal ancillary conditions develop so quickly that there is little or no time for preparedness.

Bushfire heat melts alloy

Craig Kidd looks at the melted metal of alloy wheels from the vehicles
on his property in Bendigo on February 9, 2009, after bushfires tore
through the area.

Craig Kidd looks at the melted metal of alloy wheels from the vehicles on his property in Bendigo
Source: Bushfire heat melts alloy – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)


I live 45 kms to the south of Kinglake and about 30 kms from Whittlesea. So the fire and the tragedy felt really close.

We heard yesterday that Sue, my daughter’s class teacher from a few years ago, was safe. But a friend of theirs had lost everything – so we pitched in with some clothes and stuffed toys for the children. I texted Scott to see if there was any way to check to see how Scott of KWAC, a place where we took students on camp, had fared. Will try today – maybe someone has a number we can call.

I have this urge to help – am still looking for ways to do something. Meanwhile I am keeping the radio on to hear and feel my way through the experiences of the survivors. I heard this man on the radio – he talked about rescuing his Cats Footy memorabilia. He said if someone was to contribute something – could they do something to make him laugh. Which was this incredible spirit in the face of such tragedy.

If you want to help – click here for the ABC site.

If you just want to say something feel free to comment.

‘Dig deep’ for bushfire victims

‘Dig deep’ for bushfire victims, Australians urged – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

The Victorian Premier John Brumby has launched a Bushfire Appeal Fund to help the victims of the more than 400 bushfires which have swept across the state.

The Victorian Government and the Federal Government will donate $4 million to the appeal, in addition to the $10 million announced earlier today by the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

The 2009 Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund will be set up in conjunction with the Red Cross and will collect cash donations and distribute aid to help bushfire affected communities.

Mr Brumby has urged people to dig deep to help people affected.

“We all grieve with you. So many families; families like yours and mine, now have to rebuild,” he said.

“I can promise that we will not stop until you are safe and your lives and communities have been rebuilt.”

To contribute to the fund, people can call Red Cross on 1800 811 700.