The PHOENIX RapidFire fire-spread model was largely developed as part of the initial seven-year Bushfire CRC (2003-2010).
PHOENIX has been implemented operationally in Victoria where every reported fire is automatically simulated to see its potential spread in the next six hours, including the possible values and assets that might be affected. In addition, a grid of ignitions across the whole state is run every morning to identify the areas most at risk from fire that day. It is also being formally evaluated in NSW and South Australia.
FIRE-DST will use PHOENIX to provide landscape fire spread scenarios. The main focus of the continued development of PHOENIX within FIRE-DST is:
- to improve the feed of meteorological data including the development of a third vertical dimension, convection, to enable PHOENIX RapidFire to accurately depict fire-spotting “ember attack” ahead of the main fire-front;
- to implement a more realistic fire suppression model to capture the ways in which resources are allocated to different sectors of a fire;
- to construct advanced community expose databases (including information on buildings and people);
- to formulate advanced fire vulnerability and impact modules (chiefly residential housing) within FIRE-DST to evaluate realistic impacts and costs which can be used to inform cost/benefit analysis for a range of land management options in the bushfire environment.
Fire suppression is one of the major activities of fire agencies and it consumes a significant proportion of the fire management budget of most fire agencies. In general, fire suppression costs amount to 10's millions of dollars; in catastrophic years 100's of millions of dollars. It is an area where more resources can easily be added, but the benefit of the additional cost is not always easy to evaluate.
PHOENIX RapidFire already has a fire suppression algorithm in it that is useful in many situations, but is less realistic when areas of significant assets, such as cities, power stations, water treatment plants and the like, are located in certain sections of a fire landscape. Similarly, where there is very uneven distribution of rugged terrain or dense forest and grassland, the simple fire suppression algorithm used in PHOENIX RapidFire is less realistic. An algorithm that takes into account the types of suppression resources available, the terrain, fuels, assets and values in the potential fire area is needed.
An analysis of accessibility and suppression effectiveness could be developed to implement a smarter fire suppression algorithm. This would go some way in also dealing with the issue of the best mix of fire suppression resources (aerial, ground, mechanical, human, etc).