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Bushfire Prediction Tools Set To Improve

Bushfire Prediction Tools Set To Improve

New Zealand’s grass fires are the target of new collaborative research with Australia.

The study involving research scientists and fire agencies in collaboration uses state-of-the-art technology to help more accurately predict and plan for grassland fires.

This new project is part of the Australasian Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre’s Safe Prevention, Preparation and Suppression research program. This work and more will be discussed at a Bushfire CRC forum being held in Taupo, NZ on August 3rd.

“The New Zealand-Australia collaboration here is a great example of research connecting key people and using cutting edge

resources”, said Kevin O’Loughlin, CEO of the Bushfire CRC. Combining old and new ways of assessing grass curing, the research will assist in predicting fire behaviour. Technologies employed will include more accurate satellite imaging and the latest spatial data models. This project involves top researchers from the New Zealand Forest

Research Institute, The Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO in Australia together in partnership with New Zealand and Australian Rural Fire Authorities.

Stuart Anderson, project leader and research scientist at the New Zealand Forest Research Institute, describes the new work as “an opportunity to use these technologies and bring together researchers, fire agencies and land managers which will mean significant progress is possible.”

“It is an exciting project because the close collaboration between researchers and fire managers will provide tools quickly for fire managers on the ground”, said Murray Dudfield, National Rural Fire Officer and Chairman of the NZ Rural Fire Research Advisory Committee.

Curing describes the annual or seasonal cycle of grasses dying and drying out. The proportion of cured material in grassland fuel (indicated by a “curing value”) is a critical input into both Australian and New Zealand fire behaviour models and danger rating systems.

This research aims to more accurately assess this value. Despite significant research on curing, measurement methods can be inaccurate and unreliable, but combining the traditional methods with new technologies will provide more complete assessments.

The plan for a project to improve grassland curing assessment was developed at a Bushfire CRC Grassland Curing Workshop held in March 2004 in Canberra with participants from both research and end-user organisations in Australia and NZ.

The project aims to develop alternative methods for both assessment and prediction of curing levels in grasslands through a collaborative approach, and to provide end-users with accurate information to assist in fire management activities.

Outputs from rating systems based on this work will be of more use to fire authorities and fire managers to determine the fire danger in a particular area. It will also mean improved information on bushfires being presented to the public.

The full range of the Bushfire CRC’s research program will be discussed with New Zealand Fire Service, Forestry and Land Management experts at the forum in Taupo, 2-5pm, Tuesday the 3rd of August.

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