A bushfire is one of the world’s most complex and dangerous natural phenomena, involving interactions of chemistry, physics and biology, that anyone in Australia may experience.

The challenge

Managing a dangerous, natural phenomena

In many ecosystems in Australia and around the world, bushfires are a critical process for long term sustainability. In Australia many species have evolved to cope with bushfires and some require bushfires to propagate. When conditions are conducive, bushfires can become intense and destructive fires that are essentially uncontrollable until weather conditions moderate.

Bushfire

A bushfire is one of the world’s most complex and dangerous natural phenomena, involving interactions of chemistry, physics and biology, that anyone in Australia may experience.

More than 300 people have been killed by bushfires in the past 50 years and on average they cause more than $400 million worth of damage each year.

An estimated figure of between $500 million and $1 billion is spent in Australia each year on managing bushfires, which doesn’t include the time and effort expended by an estimated 300,000 volunteer firefighters nationally.

Our response

Outcome-driven research through on-the-ground collaboration

We are the principal research team in Australia focussed on understanding the behaviour and spread of bushfires. We undertake fundamental and applied research into the behaviour and suppression of bushfires for state land management agencies and rural fire authorities.

Our work aims to deliver cutting-edge science in the form of practical knowledge and useful tools to reduce the social, economic and ecological impact of wild bushfires in the landscape.

In close collaboration with internal and external partners, we undertake large-scale experimental field studies of free-moving fires in a range of fuel types and conditions. We reconstruct the behaviour and spread of the high impact wildfires such as the 2009 Black Saturday Kilmore East fire, one of the most devastating fires in Australia’s history.

We conduct research into the physical and chemical mechanisms of fire propagation and fire emissions using highly unique purpose-built experimental facilities such as the CSIRO Pyrotron, a 25-metre-long combustion wind tunnel and the CSIRO Vertical Wind Tunnel.

We contribute to the training of fire behaviour specialists around the country and the development of state-of-the-art software to assist in the operational prediction of wildfires and prescribed fires with Data61.

We represent CSIRO on a number of national working groups and peak bodies, identifying key gaps in existing science knowledge, and collaborate with international partners driving future research direction.

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