Science and Technology Projects
Through the application of a state-wide monitoring, evaluation and reporting framework, this stream of Safer Together will measure and report on our progress reducing bushfire risk on people and the environment. Through the application of new science, data and research, it will also deliver a bushfire science strategy and tools for use in planning and community engagement.
Project 3.1: Sector-wide monitoring, evaluation and reporting framework
This project will deliver a sector-wide monitoring, evaluation and reporting framework to measure the effectiveness of Safer Together program. This will include how we work with community, across agencies and use science and information to inform our actions. It will help us to measure success and continually improve our approach to bushfire risk reduction.
Project 4.1: Joint research strategy
To enable a coordinated, targeted approach to bushfire science and research investment, this project will deliver a bushfire science strategy, including joint priorities for investment, and governance and processes for engagement of research providers.
Project 4.3: Improve modelling tools
This project is delivering analysis guidelines for better complimentary application of Phoenix and Victorian Fire Risk Register and a long-term plan for development of better integrated tools.
Collecting, evaluating and using evidence allows us to make more informed decisions about bushfire management, and continuously improve our management of bushfire risk.
As part of the Safer Together program, the following research projects are currently under way.
We are world-leaders in fire science. Our fire analysis and modelling is sophisticated and continually strengthened by fire scientists who are leaders in their fields. Through research partnerships, we are continually improving our understanding of how fires start, spread and behave.
Understanding the impacts of climate change on fire weather variables (lead agency DELWP)
Australia has been described as one of the developed countries most vulnerable to climate change, and already experiences a significant climate variability including exposure to extremes in rainfall, winds and drought.
This research will bring together current knowledge and data about how climate change impacts on fire weather variables, such as temperature, precipitation, wind speed and relative humidity and identify what further data is required to help us predict the likelihood and severity of bushfires with a higher degree of confidence. This will enable us to identify climate change induced alterations to planned burn windows, season length, extreme events and fire behaviour.
Relationship between soil and fuel drying – flammability switch (lead agency DELWP/CFA)
Many of Victoria’s worst bushfires have occurred in ash and damper foothill forests, though most of the time these forests are too wet to sustain fires. When these landscapes transition from a wet to a drier state, they can sustain large-scale severe fires, after prolonged periods of hot and dry weather, yet there is little scientific understanding of how much drying is needed for these forests to switch from a dormant state to a state that promotes freely spreading fire.
This research aims to develop a model to help us predict the likelihood of a fire occurring and spreading in Victoria’s ash and damper foothill forest with a focus on factors that transition forest fuels into a flammable state.
This will help us prepare and plan, as well as provide more accurate community information.
Cropland fire behaviour research (lead agency CFA)
Crop fires cause significant losses on an annual basis, yet the spread of crop fire is not clearly understood and fire modelling tools available are not accurate in predicting crop fire behaviour.
Through carrying out experimental burns, this project will develop a baseline for measuring fire spread on cropland. It will consider a variety of factors, including whether croplands are harvested or unharvested and crop row orientation in relation to the wind.
Understanding of crop fire behaviour will help us mitigate the risks by more effectively allocating fire suppression resources and providing better information to the farming community.
Identifying planned burning windows (lead agency DELWP/CFA)
Fuel management on public and private land is an important way in which we protect our communities and our natural environment from the negative impacts of bushfire. One of the key ways in which we manage risk of bushfire is through planned burning.
Through analysing historic data, collected since 1972, this research project will provide a greater understanding of planned burning windows available on daily and seasonal basis. This information will help us better optimise the planning and delivery of our fuel management program.
User interface platform for the Victoria historical fire weather gridded dataset (lead agency DELWP/CFA)
This project will develop a user interface to facilitate access to historic fire weather gridded dataset by land and fire managers.
While this dataset already exists, it is currently housed on a database with limited capacity to service a range of end-users. For this valuable data to be used by regional and district risk analysts from all agencies, a user-friendly data platform is required.
The project will design and test the interface, and develop online training for the wider user base.
Creation of Grass Fire Danger Index dataset (lead agency CFA)
The existing fire weather gridded dataset for Victoria comprises several weather variables and Forest Fire Danger Index (FFDI) outputs, however it does not provide outputs for grass fire danger.
This project will develop a historical Grass Fire Danger Index (GFDI) dataset to complement FFDI and to improve understanding of the entirety of the Fire Danger Rating system. In order to achieve this, a curing dataset will be derived from archived satellite data and combined with the Victorian historical fire weather data to produce the GFDI dataset. This will complete the fire weather gridded dataset, to allow for analysis of historic bushfire risk.
Development of seasonal fire prediction tools (lead agency CFA/DELWP)
It has been identified that the tools currently used for seasonal fire forecasting, Southern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook, has limitations, including its inability to be readily updated and verified throughout the fire season, and does not meet fire agencies’ or community decision making needs. This project will review and clearly define the needs of fire agencies in Victoria to develop new seasonal fire forecasting products for risk assessment purposes.
Monitoring the impact and effectiveness of our fire management operations is crucial for ensuring we are managing bushfire risk in the best possible way.
Effectiveness of resources to suppress bushfire: Aerial and ground based (lead agency CFA)
While there have been many studies on productivity rates of hand crews, bulldozers and aircraft, which have demonstrated high variability in the line production rates, little research has been conducted into the production rate of ground based tankers. This project will determine resource use and productivity at real incidents and experimental fires, with the availability of tracking devices on both ground-based and aerial resources. This data will assist in making better decisions in fire suppression situations to maximise the effectiveness of efforts and provide an evidence base for economic justifications relating to firefighting fleet and resources.
Understanding our Environments
Victorian ecosystems are diverse and complex. Research into biodiversity, fire ecology and ecosystem resilience all contribute to ensuring we have the most up-to-date information to most effectively manage for healthy environments.
Fire and biodiversity - impacts, recovery and future planning: vegetation responses to planned fire (lead agency Parks Victoria/DELWP)
We know that fire is an important part of how environment survive. This research project will address knowledge gaps relating to the relationships between fire and sensitive environments. It will improve our understanding of vegetation responses to planned fire, of fauna responses in fire-prone environments and of vulnerability of fire sensitive environments to bushfire. These insights will reduce the uncertainty of the impacts of bushfire and planned burning on biodiversity and ecosystem resilience, and improve the application of planned fire to enhance fire-dependent ecosystems and habitats. They will improve land and fire management and community understanding and confidence in bushfire management planning, delivery and recovery.
Social Sciences (Understanding the Community)
Understanding what people and communities value in their environment and how bushfire and fuel management impact on these values is crucial to delivering a program supported by all Victorians. We engage specialists from a range of disciplines, to understand these community values in order to better protect, maintain and enhance them through our actions.
Application of self-evacuation archetypes (lead agency CFA)
Individuals and households respond to bushfire in diverse and complex ways according to their circumstances and characteristics. Recent research into protective action decision making identified seven archetypes of self-evacuation in bushfire. These archetypes provide insights into the diverse factors shaping response to the threat of bushfires.
This social research project will explore how the findings from human behaviour archetypes research can be applied to bushfire risk reduction strategies in the context of Safer Together.
Behavioural insights into Fire Danger Ratings and warnings (lead agency CFA)
This research is a social science project that will look into community perspectives and behaviours associated with the current and proposed rating systems.It will consider community needs regarding warnings, appropriateness of Fire Danger Ratings signage in communicating risk and whether ratings categories result in communities taking appropriate actions. This co-investment is part of the National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS) project.
We partner with a range of independent research organisations who are experts in their fields and who promote best practice in multiple aspects of bushfire management
What Do Fire Experts Say?
Associate Professor Kevin Tolhurst of the School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences from the University of Melbourne discusses technology and innovation in fire sciences at Science In Use, the DELWP Science Symposium 2015
Dr Steve Leonard, Research Fellow with the Department of Ecology, Environment and Evolution, La Trobe University discusses ecological responses to fire and monitoring, evaluation and reporting at Science In Use, the DELWP Science Symposium 2015
Prof. Kathryn Williams, of the School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences from the University of Melbourne discusses the science of community values at Science In Use, the DELWP Science Symposium 2015
DELWP and the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) are working with universities and research organisations to improve forecasting of smoke behaviour – where it will go and how intense it will be – and understanding its impact on communities.
Predicting the spread, accumulation and dissipation of smoke from planned burns and bushfires
By improving our understanding of fuel emissions, fire behaviour, weather and climate processes, this research is improving our understanding of how smoke from planned burns and bushfires, spreads, accumulates and dissipates. The project will provide training and tools to help fire management agencies to better understand smoke and its impact on communities and industries.
Bushfires, Smoke, and People - assessing the risks and benefits from planned burning on the urban-rural interface
This research, being undertaken by University of Tasmania and the Menzies Institute for Medical Research is
- Working with fire management agencies to develop scientifically-informed practical guidelines for managing smoke from planned burns and bushfires
- Using air quality monitoring, satellite imagery and atmospheric modelling tools, to learn how different fire management practices affect community exposure to smoke.
- Developing practical public health approaches for managing smoke exposure impacts.
- Using meteorological Doppler radar to measure and track the spread of smoke plumes from planned burns and bushfires
The results of this work will contribute to better outcomes in the community aimed at reducing the impact of smoke from bushfires and planned burns.
Phoenix Rapid Fire Case Study
Phoenix RapidFire is a sophisticated bushfire simulation tool used to model bushfire risk. Developed by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), the University of Melbourne and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre, Phoenix uses information about weather, topography, vegetation and fire history to simulate (and predict) the spread and impact of bushfires. It helps us to understand bushfire behaviour – including flame height, ember density, spotting distance, convection column strength and intensity.
DELWP, Parks Victoria and the CFA use Phoenix to understand how different fuel management activities affect the amount and location of bushfire risk across landscapes. This helps us to identify the most effective strategies to reduce bushfire risk.
Phoenix is also used to support bushfire response, informing the preparation and positioning of fire fighters, aircraft and equipment on days of high fire danger. Phoenix bushfire simulations are also used to help communities understand how bushfires behave. Maps and simulations are used in conversations with communities about what bushfire risk means for them.
Monitoring, Evaluating And Reporting
Our framework for monitoring, evaluation and reporting is used to better manage outcomes as well as activities. Information from monitoring is embedded in our future decisions and becomes part of our knowledge and capability for better bushfire management.
This forms a foundation for activity across the fire management sector; a foundation of shared knowledge and evidence on which we can improve our ability to reduce bushfire risk.
We are building on this foundation by developing a sector-wide monitoring, evaluation and reporting framework that incorporates knowledge and experience of all agencies and local communities.
Under our new approach we will measure and report annually on a range of measures in the delivery of the fuel management program on public land including:
- Performance against the risk target
- The activities undertaken to achieve the risk reduction target
- Costs and funding
- Smoke impacts
- Impacts on plants and animals
- Effect on the local environment's resilience
- Community engagement
By learning together, and from each other, we will be more effective in creating safer and resilient communities.
Fuel Management Report
This report is the summary of our annual fuel management activities and achievements towards longer-term objectives. It presents metrics and measures for assessing the performance of the fuel management program at the State and regional levels, including costs. Case studies about our engagement and collaboration with communities in each region demonstrate our commitment to meaningful involvement of local communities in our activities.
Visit the Forest Fire Management website for recent Fuel Management Reports.
Focusing On Community Values
People value many different things in a landscape. Homes and properties, infrastructure and our unique ecosystems are all factored into our bushfire management planning. However, people also have very personal connections to their landscapes and their environments that stem from their sense of place and why they enjoy living in the bush.
We are investing in a number of projects to try and better understand how people connect with their surroundings and what they value in a landscape. This work will help us identify some of the less tangible things people care about and how we can most efficiently work to protect these values.
Evaluating Our Effectiveness
Monitoring operational effectiveness is critical for ensuring we are managing bushfire risk in the best way possible. We use key questions to assess how effective our actions are at reducing risk of major bushfire and how we have changed vegetation levels and key habitats for vulnerable species.