Bushfire-predicting computer program gets $21 million boost

Bushfire CRC and University of Melbourne researchers have designed a unique computer program that can predict the direction, speed and intensity of bushfires. The program, Phoenix RapidFire, will be used as a key tool for Victoria’s bushfire response this fire season.

Acknowledging the value of the innovative program, Premier John Brumby announced in late August the funding of $21.5 million to further extend its use in Victoria.

Phoenix RapidFire is a Bushfire CRC project, led by Dr Kevin Tolhurst and Mr Derek Chong from the Department of Forest and Ecosystem Science at the university. 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.

“The program will provide detailed information on the spread of fires and is intended for use by fire agencies, land managers, town and land planners and policy makers,” 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.”

The Phoenix RapidFire program is a fire simulation system that generates a coloured map of the state with a visual representation of the bushfire moving across the landscape.

Environmental details such as height and slope of the land, vegetation type, road proximity and fire history of the area, are used in the program to help predict the fire’s movement.

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 program should allow us to provide hours of warning of a fire approaching within just minutes of it being discovered,” Dr Tolhurst says.

“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.”


Release date

Fri, 22/10/2010