Australia’s Fire Danger Rating system explained

Fire Danger Rating road sign in bush woodland

Nyasha Jokomo

Posted January 10, 2024

Fire danger rating signs help to provide clarity and guidance on how to respond to bushfire risk.

The Country Fire Authority (CFA) urges Victorians to have a better understanding of what actions to take at each fire danger level. These four simple ratings offer clear recommendations for how to protect yourself according to your bushfire risk.

The Fire Danger Rating system is consistent across the nation so whether you're at home or travelling anywhere in Australia, the rating system will be the same.  

Why do we have a fire rating system? 

Australia has been using fire danger rating systems as early as the 1950s when forester A.G. McArthur developed a rating system after studying how fires behaved with different fuels and weather conditions. 

These systems exist to inform residents of at-risk areas of the potential level of danger if a bushfire were to start. It’s important to note that the ratings don’t predict the likelihood of a bushfire starting.  

The new Australian Fire Danger Rating System, showing four levels; moderate, high, extreme and catastrophic

The four-level Australian Fire Danger Rating System is designed to be easy to understand. Image: Supplied

The Australian Fire Danger Rating System

The Australian Fire Danger Rating System (AFDRS) was devised largely by the NSW Rural Fire Service and the Bureau of Meteorology using the most recent information known about weather, vegetation and fire behaviour across different landscapes. 

The AFDRS accounts for eight vegetation types (grassland, forest, grassy woodland, spinifex, shrubland, Mallee heath, buttongrass, and pine), which helps to predict how a fire might behave – and the risk it poses should it ignite. 

Importantly, the AFDRS has been designed so that it can be updated as scientists learn more about fire behaviour.  

The four levels used in the AFDRS are: 

Each level provides advice to people about how to protect themselves under specific conditions.


Two people packing bags and other items into the boot of a car

Stay informed on warnings and be prepared to leave if required. Image: Getty

Moderate: Plan and prepare 

During this stage fires can generally be contained if they break out. Keep informed and be ready to act should it be required.

High: Be ready to act 

Fires that ignite are potentially dangerous and you must be alert for fires in your area. You should decide what you will do if a fire does start, keeping in mind the safest option is to avoid bushfire risk areas if possible. 

Extreme: Take action now to protect life and property 

Under an ‘extreme’ rating fires will spread quickly and are very dangerous. Make sure your property and bushfire plan are ready. In the event of fire, you must act immediately – that means leaving your property for a safer location well ahead (early in the day is safest) of fire impact if your property is not prepared to the highest level.

You should reconsider travelling into areas at risk of bushfire. 

Catastrophic: For your survival, leave bush fire risk areas

This is the highest level of fire danger. If a fire ignites and takes hold under catastrophic conditions, then lives and property will likely be lost.  

Do not enter bushfire risk areas. Your life and that of your family may depend on the decisions you make, even before a fire starts. 

The safest option under catastrophic conditions is to leave for a safer location either early in the morning or the night before. Houses are not able to withstand fires under these conditions; you may not be able to leave if a fire starts and help may not be able to reach you.  

Regardless of the fire danger rating, you should always monitor conditions, adhere to any current fire restrictions and take immediate action if a fire starts near you.

What does the white box mean? 

There's a thin white, rectangular box underneath the ‘moderate’ level.

When the sign’s arrow points to this box it, means no fire danger rating has been issued. 


Trades person on a ladder removing leaves and debris from gutters on roof

It's important to prepare yourself and your property before bushfire season. Image: Supplied

Protecting your property from bushfire 

Preparation is key to help protect yourself and your property during the bushfire season (which, depending weather conditions and your municipality, can begin as early as October and run as late as May). 

Residents and those travelling into or through bushfire-prone areas should stay informed using the VicEmergency app or ABC Listen app.

It’s also vital to have a Bushfire Survival Plan that your entire household is familiar with, and that your property is maintained – that means clearing excess vegetation, gutters, and removing flammable stockpiles (like firewood) away from your home.


Are you protected in the event of something unexpected occuring?
Discover more about RACV Home Insurance →


The information provided is general advice only. Before making any decisions please consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations. For copies, visit As distributor, RACV Insurance Services Pty Ltd AFS Licence No. 230039 receives commission for each policy sold or renewed. Products issued by Insurance Manufacturers of Australia Pty Ltd ABN 93 004 208 084 AFS Licence No. 227678.