News from the CRC
Advances in fire software and education
Issue Three of Fire Australia for 2017 features new prediction software for bushfire spread, how NSW's geography curriculum allows students to become agents of change for community resilience, suggestions for reducing the inherent risks of prescribed burning, research on the impacts of severe wind during Cyclone Debbie, and new natural hazards science at the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC.
CSIRO's Dr Matt Plucinski introduces Amicus, a new system for the prediction of bushfire behaviour. Amicus calculates fire danger and key characterstics of fires burning across Australia's major vegetation types by drawing on weather, fuel and location data. A beta version of Amicus is now available for use by fire agencies—find out more here.
A recent change to New South Wales' Geography curriculum has made it compulsory for students in Years 5 and 6 to conduct an in-depth study of the impact of bushfires. Jacqueline Murphy describes the way this new syllabus has been implemented at St Ives North Public School in Sydney's northern suburbs. The New South Wales Rural Fire Service's experience with St Ives North Public School suggests that these curriculum changes offer a golden opportunity for fire agencies to promote and improve community resilience through engagement with schools. The RFS's work developing their response to the new curriculum closely complements the work of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC's Child-centred disaster risk reduction project, and will help to develop child-centred disaster risk reduction programs to reduce natural hazard risks by encouraging children to be active agents of change in their communities.
While prescribed burning can be an effective method of reducing bushfire risk and impacts and despite good practice and planning, there is always a chance that things can go wrong. Dr Neil Burrows uses the Margaret River and Milyeannup fires during the 2011-12 fire seasons to discuss the inherent risks involved in prescribed burning and offer some suggestions as to how these risks can be reduced. Variations in fuel moisture and fuel structure can mean that normal practices of 'edging', or burning around the perimeter of the planned burn, may be ineffective and lead to fire escape. To minimise the risk of future escapes it is important to minimise old fuels by burning as often as possible, ensuring that prescribed burns can be more easily controlled.
A team of Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC researchers were on the scene when Tropical Cyclone Debbie hit Queensland's Whitsunday region in March this year. Researchers from the Cyclone Testing Station at James Cook University and the University of Queensland set up wind monitors and assessed building damage in the lead-up to and immediately after Debbie, detecting wind speeds of up to 125.7 km/h. By drawing on investigations following Tropical Cyclones Larry (2006) and Yasi (2011), the team was able to identify damage in the roof structure of buildings and recommend inspections by structural engineers, qualified builders and structural engineers. Find out more about the team's findings here.
An exciting range of new research projects have recently begun at the CRC, with nine new projects underway. These new projects build on the existing base of research that has been conducted through the CRC since 2013, adding valuable breadth to the national natural hazards research program. The new research offers important outcomes across the industry, covering mental health and well-being of responders, coastal management, emergency management capability, risk communication, land use planning, sustainable volunteering and post-disaster recovery. Learn more here.
Fire Australia is a joint publication of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, AFAC and the Fire Protection Association Australia. Find this and previous editions of Fire Australia at www.bnhcrc.com.au/news/fire-australia.