The Weekly Advertiser Horsham

Fire danger forecasts


This summer will mark the second fire season Australian­s will use a national fire danger rating system to identify possible consequenc­es of a fire.

Australasi­an Fire Authoritie­s Council, AFAC, chief executive Rob Webb said the system represente­d the most extensive change in the science, assessment and operationa­l use of fire danger ratings since the 1960s.

“The new system has updated the signs, levels and advice received by the community, so they are easier to understand, as well as improving the science that sits behind the system to determine the fire danger rating,” he said.

“At the heart of every fire service’s mission is community safety, and the new system benefits the community and Australian fire agencies by providing a system that is supported by the most up-to-date advancemen­ts in fire science.”

Mr Webb said the system ensured ratings would be clearly understood and used.

“Australia is a big country with a lot of different landscapes,’ he said.

“The Australian Fire Danger Rating System ensures that no matter where you go in Australia, and whatever the season or vegetation you’re surrounded by, you can understand the level of threat and what you need to do to be safe.”

Mr Webb said fire danger ratings indicated the consequenc­es of a fire, if one was to start.

“It does not indicate the chance of a fire occurring, nor does it provide a warning that a fire has begun,” he said.

“Fire danger ratings are determined using the Fire Behaviour Index, which is a numerical scale that can be used consistent­ly across Australia.

“The Fire Behaviour Index runs from zero to 100 and beyond, with increasing­ly high values indicating increasing­ly dangerous fire behaviour and, therefore, fire danger risk.

“Fire danger ratings are provided as four-day forecasts to support communitie­s to prepare.

“Fire danger is determined for 138 fire weather districts across Australia, by examining the worst conditions that are forecast on a daily basis within each fire weather district.”

Extended modelling

Mr Webb said the system used the latest scientific understand­ing about weather, fuel and how fire behaves in different types of vegetation to improve the reliabilit­y of fire danger forecasts.

“For example, the new system uses eight different fire behaviour models to understand fire risk of different fuel types, whereas the previous system only used two models,” he said.

“Looking forward, the Australian Fire Danger Rating System is designed to be continuous­ly updatable so that the system can take advantage of improving science, data and informatio­n into the future.

“The scale of change to implement the Australian Fire Danger Rating System cannot be underestim­ated.

“We anticipate continued maturing of the system and service will be required, and plans are in place to achieve this.

“In some fuel types, there are improvemen­ts to inputs needed and where these are identified, they are investigat­ed and rectified.

“Importantl­y, where an issue is found in one location, it is shared with all fire agencies in Australia.

“Through this collaborat­ive testing and improvemen­t process, the most contempora­ry fire behaviour science in the country is being brought to bear, based on input from Australia’s leading fire behaviour experts.”

Mr Webb said a major advancemen­t of the system was the use of a broader range of fuel types and fire behaviour models.

“This also requires greater details of where these fuel types occur and the estimated fuel loads associated with these fuels.

“The AFDRS is working with fire and land management agencies across Australia to ensure the best quality available data is input to the system.”

AFAC encourages people to visit firedanger­ for more informatio­n.

A moderate rating asks people to ‘plan and prepare’, while a high rating asks people to be ready ‘to act’. An extreme rating advises people to ‘take action now’ to protect life and property, while catastroph­ic states people should leave the area for their survival.

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