Predicting bushfire spread
Although a natural occurrence in Australia, bushfires have the ability to be devastating, particularly when they come into contact with homes, infrastructure and people. Improved knowledge of how bushfires spread is critical for emergency management operations, risk prediction and timely issuing of warnings.
This knowledge can also be used to predict the spread of bushfires using computer models. Such predictions can allow better preparation for emergency situations, save lives and make communities safer, stronger and more resilient. However, there are many elements that influence fire behaviour making it difficult to accurately predict fire spread.
A flexible bushfire simulation framework
We developed 'Spark', an open framework for fire prediction and analysis. It takes our current knowledge of fire behaviour and combines it with state-of-the-art simulation science to produce predictions, statistics and visualisations of bushfire spread.
Spark can read weather data from meteorological forecasts and use this information directly within fire models. Geographic information, such as land slope, vegetation and un-burnable areas, such as roads and water bodies, also affect the spread of the fire.
Spark allows users to easily incorporate such environmental data and to use this information to define a fire spread rate.
More information for better decision making
Predicting the spread of bushfires will have benefits across planning and also emergency management, including:
- infrastructure planning
- land management and fuel reduction burning
- fire fighting resource allocation and deployment
- evacuation route planning
- reconstruction of historical fire events
- ecological impacts and fire regime studies
- suppression strategy analysis.
In February 2021, a partnership between CSIRO's Data61 and AFAC, the National Council for Fire and Emergency Services, announced the development of a nationally consistent bushfire modelling and prediction capability.
The partnership involves the development of Spark Operational, a cutting-edge bushfire simulation tool based on Data61's Spark fire prediction platform. Fire and emergency service agencies across the nation will now apply state-of-the-art simulation science to produce predictions, statistics and visualisations of bushfire spread, as well as simulating hours of fire spread across a landscape in a matter of seconds.
"Spark Operational will play a significant role in allowing our emergency response teams to effectively plan for and respond to fire emergencies in a variety of landscapes and climates," explained AFAC CEO Stuart Ellis.
"It was identified as the best solution to use to help achieve a nationally consistent system that will take the nation to the next generation of firefighting intelligence, and ensure we are protecting as many lives and assets as possible across multiple scenarios, mitigating the dangers of bushfire."
Read more about Spark Operational at New version of Spark to be used nation-wide to model and predict bushfires.