Bushfire spread prediction model keeps firefighters ahead

CSIRO Head Office

Friday, 17 December, 2021

Bushfire spread prediction model keeps firefighters ahead

Australia’s national science agency CSIRO and the NSW Rural Fire Service have released Australia’s most advanced model for predicting the speed and behaviour of eucalypt forest fires, helping to save lives and property during bushfires. Eucalypts make up more than 70 per cent of Australia’s forests, and some of Australia’s most extreme fire events — such as the 2009 Black Saturday fires and the most severe of the 2019/20 bushfires — occurred in this type of vegetation.

The Vesta Mark 2 model, a mathematical description of how a fire responds to environmental conditions, will be rolled out nationally this summer and will help fire control rooms across the country to predict and suppress bushfires as they spread across the landscape, and to warn the public.

Data inputs such as forecast weather and wind information come from the Bureau of Meteorology, while information on the state of fuels within the forest and existing behaviour of a fire can come from vegetation databases and fireground reports. Fire behaviour analysts in an incident management team, often stationed at an operations centre near the fire, collate this information and then run the model to generate a prediction of the likely progression of the fire across the landscape.

The original ‘Project Vesta’ in the 1990s was the largest ever experimental program studying forest fire behaviour in Australia.

Image credit: NSW RFS.

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