5 May 2015

Emergency services fired up over new prediction software

A new software tool that can predict the severity and spread of destructive bushfires has been released today by CSIRO.

Spark: a better way to predict the spread of bushfires

Show transcript

[Music plays and text appears:  Spark:  A better way to predict the spread of bushfires]

[Image changes to show a bushfire]

[Image changes to show Dr Mahesh Prakash, and text appears on screen:  Dr Mahesh Prakash, Group Leader | Computational Modelling and Simulation]

Dr Mahesh Prakash:  Spark is a bushfire spread modelling capability which has been developed by CSIRO.

[Image changes to show a computer simulation of a bushfire]

[Image changes back to Dr Mahesh Prakash]

It provides emergency management agencies a much better ability to predict fires, and save lives and property.

[Image changes to show various computer simulations]

Spark is able to provide information around the rate at which the fires spreads, the direction in which it spreads, as well as the locations that the fire actually affects.  Your inputs are essentially your weather data, mainly your wind data, the location where the fire has been started, the data about vegetation, the fuel type, as well as the terrain.

[Image changes back to Dr Mahesh Prakash]

And once you have all these inputs you can run your fire predictions for any given location.

[Image changes to show computer simulation of a bushfire]

And it runs better than real time, so you can actually make your decisions around where to actually target the fire fighting efforts.

[Image changes to show a bushfire]

[Image changes to show a fireman spraying water on the bushfire from a vehicle]

[Image changes back to Dr Mahesh Prakash]

It can also be used by researchers to actually try and understand different types of fire models.

[Image changes to show various computer simulations of a bushfire]

[Image changes back to Dr Mahesh Prakash]

Now that Spark’s actually publically available and it’s downloadable from our website, emergency agencies can actually have a firsthand look at how it performs, and Spark’s actually able to be integrated with their existing systems.

[Image changes to show Dr Mahesh Prakash working at a computer]

[Image changes back to Dr Mahesh Prakash]

You also have the ability to incorporate future changes, which might also include climate change effects, into any model that gets developed.

[Image changes to show a bushfire]

[Image changes back to Dr Mahesh Prakash]

People can be better prepared against potential bushfire risks, both from a saving lives perspective, as well as saving property perspective.

[Image changes to show a fireman spraying water on a bushfire from a moving vehicle]

[Image changes back to Dr Mahesh Prakash]

So it’s a very powerful tool for emergency management agencies.

[Music plays and CSIRO logo appears with text: Big ideas start here www.csiro.au]

Hide transcript

The software, known as 'Spark' will give fire-fighting agencies a more accurate view of fire behaviour, informing decisions that could minimise property damage and save lives.

Spark takes current knowledge of fire behaviour and combines it with state-of-the-art simulation science to predict the future location of bushfires and the spread of those already burning.

The framework uses geospatial data, such as vegetation types, topography and un-burnable elements such as roads and bodies of water, as well as weather data such as air temperature, humidity, wind speed and wind direction.Spark then uses this data to model the spread of a fire based on its specific location and current environmental conditions.

Dr Mahesh Prakash, one of CSIRO's computational modelling researchers, described the software as a highly flexible simulation environment. "Spark has the potential to be used operationally for real-time fire spread modelling of bushfires," he said.

"This information is invaluable for emergency management decision makers for predicting risk, deploying firefighting resources or planning evacuation routes.

"The next step is to work with the rural fire authorities and land management agencies to incorporate Spark into bushfire planning and management processes."

CSIRO's bushfire behaviour expert, Dr Andrew Sullivan said that Spark represents the state of the art in fire spread simulation. "We have had the capacity to model the spread of bushfires for more than 20 years. Spark takes that technology into the 21st century by marrying the foundation of our fire behaviour knowledge with the state of the art in simulation science," he said.

Spark provides the opportunity to use data and modelling tools to inform emergency management processes, save lives and reduce the financial burden of disasters on the global economy.

The Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission conservatively estimated the cost of the Black Saturday disaster to be $4.4 billion. In southeast Australia the fire season is becoming longer, reducing the opportunities for hazard reduction burning.

Recent severe fires have been influenced by record hot, dry conditions and in the future, Australia is very likely to experience an increased number of days with extreme fire danger. It is crucial that communities, emergency services, health services and other authorities prepare for the increasing severity and frequency of extreme fire conditions.

Spark has been developed as an open framework for fire prediction and analysis, making it simple for fire agencies to incorporate the software into their existing systems and also more easily allow the fire science community to collaborate and keep adding new fire behaviour knowledge.

A demonstration version of Spark is available to download via the CSIRO website. Spark is being officially launched today at the Australian & New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference held on the Gold Coast.

Additional resources

Images

  • Dr Mahesh Prakash holding a computer tablet in front of a bank of screens showing Sparks software in use. Download image

    Dr Mahesh Prakash describes the Sparks software as a highly flexible simulation environment.

  • Screenshot of the Sparks software. Download image

    Spark takes current knowledge of fire behaviour and combines it with state-of-the-art simulation science to predict bushfire spread.

  • Screen shot of a real-time simulation of fire ovelaid on the ground. Download image

    Spark has the potential to be used operationally for real-time fire spread modelling of bushfires.

  • Raging bushfire showing flames leaping above trees. Download image

    Spark can utilise a variey of data to model the spread of a fire based on specific location and current environmental conditions.

Audio

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