The Bushfire Management Business Model project – led by Dr Kevin Tolhurst of the University of Melbourne -- was born out of the recognition that while bushfire management has been a major enterprise in Australia for many years, there has been to date, no formal risk management model developed.
This project developed a risk management decision support system for fire agencies and land managers through interviewing a large number of fire managers from a range of different agencies and types.
The Fire Management Business Model underpins a risk management model. The model is used to calculate the probability of ignition and spread of fires across a landscape.
This outcome allows for a better understanding of how changes in one aspect of management can affect other aspects of management. The models may assist fire agencies in better deciding where to allocate resources during a fire event.
While developing the Fire Management Business model, Dr Tolhurst realised a fast, operational, fire-spread model was also needed. The existing ones did not suit his need, so he developed his own with his colleague Derek Chong.
Known as Phoenix RapidFire , the program predicts the movement of fire and helps determine which communities need to be warned and where to send resources to minimise the impact. It generates a map of with a visual representation of the bushfire moving across the landscape with input from environmental details such as the height and slope of the land, vegetation type, road proximity and fire history of the area.
The fire’s impact is then estimated based on fire characteristics and the values and assets of the landscape, such as houses and agricultural areas.
The state of Victoria began using it operationally for the 2010-2011 fire season.
“The program should allow us to provide hours of warning of a fire approaching within just minutes of it being discovered,” Dr Tolhurst says.
“It’s designed to show the progression of fire across an entire state, and not just a local area and therefore the fire fighting resources can be most effectively allocated. Although other fire behaviour models exist, Phoenix RapidFire is unique in the world because of its ability to respond to changing factors in the environment such as weather and fuel. We aim to implement Phoenix RapidFire right across Australia in the future.”
Fire managers can now use Phoenix RapidFire to simulate the positive effects that a fuel reduced zone can have on the progress of a wildfire. It has the potential to be used for fire management planning and to inform land use planning decisions.