New tool to aid in NT fire management

26-Aug-2014

Cameron Yates

Darwin Centre for Bushfire Research project coordinator Cameron Yates is building a new tool to aid fire managers in the Northern Territory


A new tool to aid fire managers in the Northern Territory, potentially reducing wildfire and the costs associated with fire mitigation activities, is being built by researchers at Charles Darwin University.

The project aims to improve the current Grassland Fire Danger Index (GFDI) used throughout the NT to determine fire danger and, in turn, the issuing of fire ban days.

Darwin Centre for Bushfire Research project coordinator Cameron Yates said the products would assist local and regional communities throughout the NT to undertake cost-efficient fire management planning and mitigation activities to reduce the threat of wildfires.

“Fire bans have a significant economic impact on northern Australia with the resources required to be on standby, not just for the response agency but industry as well, particularly in the mining and pastoralist sectors,” Mr Yates said.

“Reliable, timely spatial information concerning standing fuel loads and curing state are key inputs for developing local and regional-scale risk management strategies, and informing fire management mitigation and wildfire suppression activities.” 

Mr Yates said the project would develop and provide reliable fuel load and curing mapping tools to better inform the GFDI and for land and fire managers throughout the NT.

“In northern Australia there is no objective methodology for calculating curing or fine fuels, with curing and fuels having a major influence on the fire danger index,” he said.

“Currently mitigation is undertaken both on the ground and in the air. This is not only costly and time consuming, it is almost impossible to cover such a huge landmass. Mangers may burn too early and not create sufficient fire breaks or too late and have large uncontrolled fires, and that could be costly.”

Mr Yates said that the mapping tool would be created using more than 12 years of satellite data.

“We are currently gathering all the information on curing available and will also be conducting fieldwork to calibrate this information,” he said. “Once the measurements have been collated, we will be overlaying the information to create a curing map.”

He said that this would be the first curing tool specific to the savannas in northern Australia.

“This tool will provide land and fire agency managers with detailed information concerning the curing status of flammable fuels at landscape scales,” he said. “It is basically a measure of the ‘greenness’ of fuel loads to help establish when is the best time to burn depending on a users’ management regime and what sort of fire they want to use for their specific management purposes.”

Mr Yates said this tool would add to the information already available to land managers via the Bureau of Meteorology and the North Australian Fire Information websites.