Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) Rating for Owner Builders - NSW - Owner Builder Club

Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) Rating for Owner Builders – NSW

BAL Rating NSW

Hello to all aspiring owner builders in New South Wales (NSW)! If you're on the path to creating your dream home here, it's essential to get acquainted with the Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) Rating for Owner Builders – NSW.

Given NSW's susceptibility to bushfires due to its varied landscapes and warm climate, being prepared is not just advisable, it's necessary.

This is where the Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) Rating – NSW becomes invaluable.

This rating system offers a comprehensive way to evaluate the risk your property might face in the event of a bushfire. By gaining a solid understanding of this rating, you can design and build a home that's not only beautiful but also resilient against potential bushfires.

So, are you ready to delve deeper into BAL ratings? Let's get started!

New South Wales and Bushfires

New South Wales has a long and complex history of bushfires. The frequency of bushfires has been increasing over the years, with wildfires larger than 50,000 hectares becoming more common. Climate change is also playing a significant role in this increase, as it leads to higher fuel loads, drier conditions, and more frequent lightning strikes.

Why is NSW particularly prone to bushfires?

The answer lies in its diverse landscapes and warm climate. These conditions create an environment that is highly conducive to the spread of fires. Moreover, Australia is the most fire prone country on Earth, with fire services responding to between 45,000 and 60,000 bushfires each year.

There have been several significant incidents where homes were severely affected by bushfires. For instance, during the 2019-2020 Australian bushfire season, fires heavily impacted various regions of NSW, destroying homes and burning vast areas. In fact, the fires from this season were so devastating that they led to mass evacuations, claimed four lives, and destroyed around 225 homes.

The 2019-20 fires had a profound impact on NSW's environment as well. According to the New South Wales Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, these fires affected more than 5.5 million hectares of land, with national parks accounting for 37% of the total area burned.

Given this history and the ongoing risk, it's clear why a system to gauge and mitigate the potential impact of bushfires is needed.

Understanding the Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) Rating in NSW

The Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) rating is a vital component of building and planning in New South Wales. It's an Australian government standard that quantifies the potential exposure of your home to a bushfire. This system is designed to safeguard properties against the devastating impact of bushfires and ensure the safety of inhabitants.

So, how does the BAL rating work?

The BAL assessment takes into consideration various factors including:

  • Fire Danger Index (FDI).
  • Type of vegetation surrounding the property.
  • Distance of the property from the vegetation.
  • The slope of the property.

Based on these factors, the BAL rating determines the intensity of heat flux a building may face during a bushfire.

BAL Rating Levels

The BAL ratings are divided into six levels, each indicating the intensity of radiant heat exposure, and therefore, the construction requirements for the building.

  • BAL-LOW: This level indicates that there is insufficient risk to warrant specific construction requirements. However, there might still be some risk of ember attack.
  • BAL-12.5: At this level, properties are exposed to a significant risk of ember attack and burning debris ignited by windborne embers, and a likelihood of exposure to radiant heat. Therefore, specific construction elements are required to protect against these threats.
  • BAL-19: This rating suggests a moderate risk with an increased level of ember attack and burning debris ignited by windborne embers, and increasing likelihood of exposure to radiant heat. The construction requirements are more stringent than BAL-12.5.
  • BAL-29: Properties with this rating face a high risk, with an increased level of ember attack and burning debris ignited by windborne embers, and a higher likelihood of exposure to radiant heat. The construction requirements are more demanding compared to the previous levels.
  • BAL-40: This is a very high risk level indicating an increased likelihood of ember attack and burning debris ignited by windborne embers, and a high likelihood of exposure to radiant heat and some direct exposure to flames. Construction requirements at this level are extremely rigorous.
  • BAL-FZ (Flame Zone): This is the extreme risk level suggesting a direct exposure to the flame from the fire front, in addition to a high level of ember attack and radiant heat. The construction elements for buildings in this zone are the most stringent and aim to provide the highest level of protection possible.

Importance of Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) Rating for Owner Builders – NSW

For owner builders, understanding these levels is crucial.

It not only helps in planning and designing a home that is resilient against bushfires but also ensures compliance with local building regulations. Depending on your property's BAL rating, different construction methods and materials may be required to minimise the potential damage from a bushfire.

Adhering to the BAL rating is critical for both safety and compliance reasons. Non-compliance can lead to severe penalties, and more importantly, it can put lives and properties at risk

The Rural Fire Service (RFS) provides comprehensive guidelines on the approval pathway, protection measures, and determining the level of risk for building in a bushfire prone area.


Wrapping things up, it's clear that bushfires have left quite the mark on New South Wales, both in shaping our beautiful landscape and in our shared history. The unfortunate rise in these fiery disasters only underscores the need for us all to really get to grips with what they mean, especially if you're an owner builder looking to set down roots in the region.

For those of you wearing the owner builder hat, sticking to the BAL rating isn't just about ticking off a box for regulatory compliance. It's a key safety measure, pointing you towards the construction methods and materials that can help minimise any potential damage from a bushfire.

We can't stress enough how important it is to keep learning and prepping to lessen the risks tied to bushfires. By staying clued-in and ready for action, we can safeguard our homes, loved ones, and communities from the harsh effects of bushfires.

So, let's keep on learning, prepping, and building our resilience against this mighty force of nature.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Bush Fire Prone Land?

Bush Fire Prone Land is an area that can support a bushfire or is likely to be subject to bush fire attack. This includes areas of bushland or vegetation that can fuel a fire and areas within a certain distance from this vegetation.

How is Bush Fire Prone Land mapped?

The mapping of Bush Fire Prone Land is done by the local council in collaboration with the NSW Rural Fire Service. It involves identifying areas that contain vegetation that could potentially fuel a fire and areas within a certain proximity to this vegetation.

What is a BAL rating?

A Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) rating is a measure of the severity of a building's potential exposure to ember attack, radiant heat, and direct flame contact. It is determined based on factors such as the Fire Danger Index, type of vegetation, distance of the building from the vegetation, and the slope of the ground.

How is a BAL rating determined?

A BAL rating is determined by a qualified consultant who assesses the aforementioned factors. The rating informs the construction requirements for a building in a bushfire-prone area.

Do I need a BAL assessment for my property?

If your property is located in a designated bushfire-prone area, you will likely need a BAL assessment. This assessment forms part of the development application process and is used to determine the appropriate construction measures to mitigate bushfire risk.

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