Deakin Communicating Science 2016

EES 200/101

Boys and Their Toys

Welcome back my friends, in the last few weeks we looked at the basics of Bushfires, and some of the technology that is being used up in space, but today we are going to delve into the super cool toys that are being used for bushfire analysis, research and prediction.

Fire Modelling

The extent of bushfire modelling is really impressive.

This video explains the basics of Spark, a fire modelling software that has come out of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)

Furthering the analysis and prediction there are papers being published on fire predication based on all the variables you could think of, one great example is;

An empirical wildfire risk analysis: the probability of a fire spreading to the urban interface in Sydney, Australia’ (x)

This is one of the most read papers that has been publish in the International Journal of Wildland Fire. They modeled whether the fire burnt to the end point as functions of distance, fuel, weather, and barriers to spread.[1]

They found that the most influential factors were as following;

  1. Fire weather (being the strongest influence)
  2. The percentage of the path the fire took that was forested
  3. Distance and time since last fire

They also noted that within 1-4 km from the interface, fuel treatments substantially reduced fire risk.

This paper was a fantastic success with results having 98% predictive accuracy, and was able to cover 90% variation in burning.[2]

Outcomes of fire research: is science used?[3]

Is the title of a paper published in the International Journal of Wildland Fire, by Molly Hunter, who is based at the University of Arizona. Molly found that of the 48 projects in the sample, that information from 44 of those had been used in some capacity in recent planning documents. Science has predominantly been used for evaluate current practices and to develop new practices. [4]

Lack of manager awareness is was found to be a barrier to application of science. “Conversely, activities and organisations that foster interaction between scientists and managers were identified as facilitating the application of science”[5]


The Pyrotron

CSIRO has built the ‘Pyrotron’ which is so very cool, check it out below:

You can just imagine how fantastic this has been for the fire research community. The Pyrotron is available internationally for researchers to come and use to carry out research investigations.

The Social Impacts

All this is critical work, and is so important for communities in these bushfire prone areas.

We know that it’s important to have the firefighting authorities to have access to this information and this research. But it is just as important, if not more important to ensure that the public has access to and is provided with this information.

Education plays enormous role in this respect. It is the most important for keeping people safe during the bushfire season.

Education determines

  • How bushfires are fought
  • If people survive
  • How they defend themselves and their home
  • If they leave or stay
  • How they react

This is where campaigns like ‘Prepare. Act. Survive.’ and ‘Fire Ready’ have made a real impact for families facing the life or death threat of a bushfire.

Another major social aspect of bushfires, is that human causes are the main causes of ignition in Victoria. This is a well known fact in the bushfire conversation, in the paper ‘Spatial patterns of wildfire ignitions in south-eastern Australia’ it was concluded that population density is the most important variable for this distribution.[6]

They predicted that in future years, there will be an increase in ignitions in the coastal and hinterland regions, with increasing population and effects of climate change[7]

Bushfires are simultaneously fascinating and an entirely terrifying force of nature.

That’s all from me folks



[1] Price, O., et al. (2015). “An empirical wildfire risk analysis: the probability of a fire spreading to the urban interface in Sydney, Australia.” International Journal of Wildland Fire 24(5): 597-606.


[2] Ibid.

[3] Hunter, M. E. (2016). “Outcomes of fire research: is science used?” Ibid. 25: 495-504.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Collins, K. M., et al. (2015). “Spatial patterns of wildfire ignitions in south-eastern Australia.” Ibid. 24(8): 1098-1108.

[7] Ibid.



One comment on “Boys and Their Toys

  1. Pingback: Satellites and a Cool way to use them. | Deakin Communicating Science 2016

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This entry was posted on May 4, 2016 by in Uncategorized.

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