2003-2010 Research

Following the bushfires of Christmas 2001 in NSW, the fire and land management sector got together with leading researchers to develop a proposal for a cooperative research centre to examine the impact and management of fire in Australasia.

The Bushfire CRC, began its operations on the 1 July 2003 with four inter-related research programs with a seven year plan. This research effort was completed in June 2010 when the research focus switched to the current extension program.

Extensive work is still underway to ensure the outcomes from the first seven years are effectively being implemented around Australia and New Zealand.

Full details of these past research projects are available here, as well as the outputs created. 

Program A: Safe Prevention, Preparation and Suppression

Bushfire management has four related goals – to prevent an uncontrolled bushfire occurring, to prepare in case it does, to suppress it if it arrives, and to enable rapid recovery after the event.

Fire managers need reliable tools that make the best use of emerging technologies to support their decisions in how best to manage the landscape, before, during and after a bushfire.

This program provided a better understanding of key issues such as fire behaviour, fire weather, bushfire danger rating, and strategies for aerial and ground suppression.

Bushfire CRC scientists conducted field experiments in Australia and New Zealand in partnership with the fire and land agencies to generate better fire spread models and enhanced systems to evaluate the fuel characteristics. Meteorologists worked with international colleagues and end-users across Australia and New Zealand to better predict the potential for bad fire weather. Hundreds of field reports from real bushfires were collected from aerial suppression supervisors and ground crews to find out exactly how effective it is to fight bushfires from the air.

Program B: Management of Fire in the Landscape

Fire – like rain, snow, heat, drought and human activity – has long been a contributor to the nature of the Australian landscape.

Fire can be destructive and it can be beneficial. In all ecosystems, too much, too little or the wrong kind of fire can have a profound effect.

This program helped firefighters, land managers and the broader community learn to manage fire and understand its importance as a land management tool. It gained a better understanding of the role of fire in Australian ecosystems. New guidelines defined a better way to manage the bushfire risk while reducing the impact on important ecological values such as biodiversity and forest health.

A special Australian Government grant was received for research on the role of fire in Australia’s high country. The HighFire Project laid the foundation for important work that will inform land managers in this pristine environment.

From the forests of Western Australia to the tropical savannas of the north, Bushfire CRC scientists looked at fire as an integral part of the landscape.

Program C: Community Self-Sufficiency for Fire Safety

The choice to live and work in places of bushfire risk makes us more vulnerable. It also demands that we become self-sufficient in dealing with that risk.

This program helped communities become more resilient in the face of the threat from bushfires. It sought to understand what communities need to manage the risk, which varies greatly from one community to another across Australia and New Zealand. Central to this program was a better understanding what drives human behaviour before, during and after a bushfire.

In collaboration with the fire agencies, Bushfire CRC researchers worked within communities from Far North Queensland to Victoria’s western districts, Canberra, Hobart, and South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula. They gained valuable information for the fire agencies by developing a better understanding of how these communities manage the bushfire risk, how they respond to warnings and advice from fire agencies and how they receive messages through the media. Research on arson was another key research focus of great practical interest to all partners.

The Bushfire CRC also initiated research in the fledgling topic of bushfire economics, linking with the small number of international experts working in this area.

Program D: Protection of People and Property

Community expectations change over time and so does the impact of bushfires. Living, working and playing in bush areas grows ever more popular and with that comes the recognition that this lifestyle carries a certain risk to safety and wellbeing from uncontrolled bushfire.

But at the same time there is an increasing expectation that these risks will be better assessed and managed by our fire and land agencies. There is an expectation too that the health and safety of those fighting the fires is also of the highest priority.

This program examined methods to increase the safety at the interface between people, property and the natural bushland environment. It focussed on the health and wellbeing of the community and firefighters through research into building protection, and firefighter health and safety. Understanding the drivers of demographic and attitudinal changes affecting volunteerism was a major focus of this program to help the fire agencies improve retention and recruitment strategies.