Penny Buchan loves living near the bush. Being prepared for bushfires comes with the territory
Smoke towers from the bush just 5 kilometres from Penny Buchan's home at Engadine in Sydney's south. 
Firefighters with the Rural Fire Service (RFS) have been burning 2,000 hectares of bush at the Holsworthy Military Barracks, in anticipation of an expected dry summer.
The area was spared from the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-2020. 
But with the past few years of wet weather, leaves and deadfall have built up in the forest that borders on homes on Sydney's southern fringe.
Smoke from hazard reduction burns has filled Sydney this week, and this weekend the RFS will be pushing communities to get ready for the fire season.
On Wednesday morning, the smell of smoke filled Ms Buchan's home on the edge of the bush.
The scent is all too familiar for Ms Buchan and her husband, Greg Langton, who both volunteer with the local RFS.
"It's always a bit concerning going into summer," Ms Buchan said.
"I love where we live, but I don't particularly enjoy the scary days."
One of those scary days was when a bushfire threatened homes in nearby Menai and Barden Ridge in April 2018.
Mr Langton was out with the brigade battling the fire, while Ms Buchan was nursing their eight-week-old baby. She grabbed their go-bag and headed for her brother's place away from bushland in Kareela.
"I did not want to be anywhere near where there could be a problem," Ms Buchan said.
Ms Buchan and Mr Langton now have two kids, one three and the other five years old. With this and the home's closeness to the bush, the family needs to have a plan to evacuate.
Their townhouse is at the bottom of a long driveway where other people may also need to leave at the same time for a safe spot at a sports oval across a main road.
"It's a pretty big townhouse block that has 25 units, which could potentially be up to 50 cars, but only one driveway out to the main road," Ms Buchan said.
"I would take the kids, grab our bags and go. There's a community safety spot just at the top of the hill. Just on the oval at the top."
Their go-bags were organised before they moved in 11 years ago.
Ms Buchan has two green shopping bags with hard drives containing all their photos, laptops, identity documents, baby health books and university degrees.
"Just things that can't be replaced," Ms Buchan said.
"As we have more children, I add more things."
At more than 590 events across New South Wales this weekend, the RFS will be educating residents about fire safety and how to make their evacuation plans.
Source: Rural Fire Service
"Recent research shows that 70 per cent of people living in bushfire-prone areas have some sort of plan for what to do during a fire, but worryingly less than half had done any preparation work on their property," Minister for Emergency Services Jihab Dib said.
Keeping debris and potential bushfire fuel off the property is part of daily life for Springwood resident Joan Purcell.
Ms Purcell lives in a home that faces bushland and ridges in the Blue Mountains town. Her plan is to leave if a fire threatens the property, but her main concern is there is only one road to her place.
"Only one way in and out," Ms Purcell said.
"Fire did come up one time quite a few years ago, which blocked everything off.
"That's one thing you do have to think of — where the fire actually is."
Michael Unsworth is another resident of the Blue Mountains on a property that has just one road-access. His place looks over the Megalong Valley, which in itself is a fire risk.
"Bushfires accelerate up the hill," Mr Unsworth said.
He regularly cleans leaves from his Blackheath property and is also investing in a sprinkler system to attach to his home.
His plan is to leave with plenty of time, rather than risk being cut off.
He's particularly worried about this upcoming season.
"This year, it's just so dry. There's just so much fuel on the ground and there's been no attempt to do any hazard reduction burn," Mr Unsworth said.
The RFS says it has done hazard reduction on 42,900 hectares across the state since July 1, representing 47 per cent of the proposed works this financial quarter.
The catastrophic Black Summer bushfires demonstrated just how bad things could get. 
Ms Buchan says this might make people think twice about fire safety and be well prepared for the upcoming warm weather seasons.
"I think everyone remembers the last fire season and I think that will make people a bit more cautious this year," she said.
"Hopefully [it'll] make people a bit safer and make sure they do the right thing."
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