Charles Darwin University (CDU) and Bushfires NT have developed an innovative way of making rural landholders more fire conscious.
They have developed an online simulation that allows landholders to visualise the impact of fuel load, firebreaks and weather on the spread of fire.
Researcher with CDU’s Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, Rohan Fisher said the simulation was an engaging way of combining science and lived experiences to deliver a knowledge-building experience.
Mr Fisher has developed a 3D bushfire simulation tool designed to illustrate bushfire behaviour and the impact of various fire management and bushfire mitigation actions. He has worked extensively with land managers across the Territory helping them better understand the characteristics of bushfires.
“Our online simulation lets the user see the impacts fuel load, climatic conditions and fire breaks have on the spread of fire,” he said.
“We have paid particular attention to illustrating the impact gamba grass can have on bushfire spread and behaviour, particularly the way gamba grass increases the ability of fires to jump fire breaks on windy days.”
The user can choose the fuel danger level, wind speed and direction and add fire breaks and fuel sources such as stands of gamba grass. The user identifies where the fire should start and can see the impact of fuel and fire breaks on its spread under the chosen circumstances.
Lee Humphris, Senior Fire Management Officer with Bushfires NT at Batchelor said “the tool gives our Officers and Volunteer Bushfire Brigades an easy to use, online tools which helps educate public about basic fire behaviour”. “This tool will also be useful in training for level 1 firefighters.”
The simulation draws on data from Mr Fisher’s work modelling bushfire behaviour in Darwin’s rural area. That work modelled fire behaviour in the rural area across areas larger than 10,000 hectares down to just 200 ha.
“Fire management will be more important than ever because of the spread of gamba grass. Gamba increases the fuel load by up to 10 times compared with native grass species and the heat from burning gamba grass is up to 12 times more intense than native grass,” he said.
“The cost of rural firefighting has in some districts increased 30-fold in the last decade largely due to the severity of gamba fires. More equipment, staff and fire management have been needed and more damage is being down by fires fuelled by gamba.”
The fire simulation app will be used by Bushfires NT staff and volunteer brigades to engage land owners around increasing fire threats this dry season.
The simulation project was funded through a $50,000 grant under the National Disaster Resilience Program and was developed with assistance from Mathew Elvey from CDU’s Innovative Media Production Studio.
The Darwin Rural Fire Simulation can be found at W: imps.cdu.edu.au/tools/firesim/