2003-2010 Research Adoption

Research Adoption Themes  

The outputs from research conducted by the Bushfire CRC from 2003 to 2010 are grouped below under four themes – themes that have been nominated by fire and land management industries as high priority areas. They are:

* Aerial Suppression
* Community Safety and Engagement
* Prescribed Burn
* Protecting Fire Fighters

An alternative view of the research for use in teaching and higher education can be found in the higher education: building future capacity to manage a changing world page here

Aerial Suppression  

The research focus on aerial suppression brings together elements from a number of research projects across the Bushfire CRC. Ultimately the objective is to produce a decision support system that will assist aircraft managers (and Planning Officers and Incident Controllers, State and Regional Co-ordinators and Chief Officers) to better utilise the available resources to ensure their effective and efficient use.

The key here is to understand what is at risk, what resources are available (and their capabilities), and what they cost. These considerations then need to be matched with a measure of the difficulty of suppression for given fuels and weather.

In considering a risk based approach to the management of landscape fire, the relevant elements include prevention (minimising the incidence of wildfire), preparedness (the preparation for wildfire occurrence); suppression (restricting the spread of a wildfire) and recovery (the post-fire phase). In developing a ‘Fire Management Business Model’ (Project A4) there is considerable overlap between this theme and the three other outcome areas (or themes) and particularly between this one and prescribed burning. As such, some of the adoption products for aerial suppression and prescribed burning have been combined, particularly in the educational area.

Community Safety and Engagement

This targeted outcome includes the following projects: understanding communities, bushfire arson, effective risk communication, evaluation of stay or go policy and the evaluation of community education programs.

The research adoption phase of this research will see the development of a conceptual model that will enable agencies to evaluate the appropriateness of their various education and intervention strategies.

The model will primarily be in the form a synthesis of a broad range of related research. This synthesis will provide an evidence-base for agencies that will support the ongoing development of their approaches to community safety.

Prescribed Burning

Prescribed burning is defined as the controlled application of fire under specific environmental conditions to a predetermined area and at the time, intensity and rate of spread required to attain planned resource management objectives.

Research in this area has included four main elements:

* basic understanding of fire ecology and vegetation (fuels) using specific area studies
* fire behaviour research that examines how fuels are consumed and the characteristics of the combustion process;
* the impact of prescribed burning on subsequent wildfire suppression and asset protection; and
* the development of tools and knowledge that can help to understand fire propagation and the impacts of climate change on risk.

Protecting Fire Fighters

Topography, vegetation and climate combine in many parts of southern Australia to produce one of the most severe fire prone areas on Earth.

Agencies and indeed the wider community rely on appropriately trained personnel with a variety of skill levels for the safe and effective use of prescribed fire and for a rapid, safe and thorough response to wildfire.

All firefighters must be adequately trained and equipped and have their competency recognised prior to their involvement in firefighting operations.

Several research projects have explored factors that have an influence on the health and safety of fire fighters. The key occupational health and safety research of the Bushfire CRC has explored fire-ground fitness, hydration and the impact of air toxics (from burning vegetation) on fire fighters.

Other research has focussed fatigue while fighting bushfire – this research has published an overview of factors contributing to firefighter fatigue during bushfire suppression work. The research in this area is determining the effect of fatigue, stress, fitness and crew management on the health and safety of firefighters and identifying how this impacts on decision-making ability.

Researchers have also been investigating safe behaviour and decision making – what are the human factors that influence decision making on the fire-ground – such as physical and mental stress, group pressures at crew and management level, and the individuals on thought processes?

And volunteers - around 250,000 volunteers across Australia along with paid fire agency staff carry out bushfire mitigation and suppression operations each year. This volunteer effort is estimated to be worth about $1.2 billion to the community annually. Bushfire CRC researchers have been examining how agencies can best recruit and retain their volunteer workforce.