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The challenge

Effective bushfire management

CSIRO engagement with work on fire management has been a long-term activity. Its origins can be traced back to the 1940s when CSIRO published a report which detailed the way in which houses were lost in the Beaumaris bushfire on 12 January 1944. The work, which focuses on the interactions between the natural and the built environments, includes fire as a land management tool and managing fire risk to life and infrastructure.

Our response

Tanker Burnover Project and the Queensland Bushfire Mapping Project

Burning bushland in Western Australia.

This case study focuses on CSIRO’s work in relation to bushfire risk management.

Two projects have been identified which exemplify CSIRO’s work in managing fire risk to urban and peri-urban areas, namely the Tanker Burnover project and the Queensland Bushfire Mapping project.

Tanker Burnover Project

Given frontline firefighters are most at risk in the event of a bushfire burnover, existing practices relating to bushfire safety are under continual review. CSIRO was commissioned to identify the parameters of importance in protecting firefighters and their vehicles and assess opportunities to improve the protection afforded by firefighting vehicles. CSIRO conducted a series of experimental burnover tests (using a bush fire simulator). They also conducted field experiments to assess the effectiveness of modifications made to the tankers including shielding and water sprays. CSIRO provided the theory and measurement relating to the bushfire flame front and conducted the onboard measurement of fire tanker performance during testing.

Queensland Bushfire Mapping Project

CSIRO developed a new State-wide mapping methodology to identify Bushfire Prone Areas in support of bushfire hazard provisions of Queensland’s State Planning Policy (which came into effect on 2 December 2013). The methodology scales bushfire hazard based on the Potential Fire-line Intensity of a severe bushfire and can be used to predict the radiation profile of areas adjacent to potentially hazardous vegetation and an associated Potential Impact Buffer. Potential Fire-line Intensity is also a useful indicator of the level of safety afforded for resident egress and firefighter access. The scientific platform and fire risk mapping system underpins State-wide planning.

The results

Preventing loss of life and reducing economic impact of bushfires

CSIRO's bushfire risk management research has delivered significant benefits which are essentially the same across both the Tanker Burnover Project and the Queensland Bushfire Mapping Project. Those benefits are as follows:

  • reduction in loss of life/injury
  • reduction in the economic impact: the total economic cost of bushfires in Australia is very high, and under current conditions, is estimated to average around $1.1 billion per year (2017 figures) comprising direct tangible costs, indirect tangible costs and intangible costs
  • reduction in infrastructure losses/disruptions including: public infrastructure and services that are damaged or destroyed by bushfires; transport networks are disrupted; loss of electricity supply and communications equipment; impact to potable water supply catchments and private infrastructure losses (homes and other private rural infrastructure, iconic or important buildings (both public and private)) and fire fighting vehicles and equipment
  • better fire management resource (human and equipment) deployment
  • better/more informed planning decisions through adoption of a methodology that has a clear focus on bushfire hazard mapping aligned with national emergency risk assessment guidelines


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