CSIRO and CFA undertake fire research at airport

BALLARAT was the base for CSIRO and CFA research over the weekend to see how quickly fires can burn depending on the dryness of grass.

Firefighters, researchers and scientists conducted a number of small burnoffs at the Ballarat airport yesterday, observing how fire behaviour was effected by different grass.

The research will help form the basis of fire behaviour modelling used by emergency services, which predicts what a fire will do in certain conditions.

CSIRO research scientist Miguel Cruz said the team was particularly interested in the effect of the “curing” of grass, as it goes from green to yellow and then fully dead.

The team compared fire behaviour simultaneously on areas of grass that were 40 per cent cured and others that were 100 per cent. 

“We know which ones will burn quicker, but how much slower is the fire burning on 40 per cent, 60 per cent or 80 per cent curing?” he said. 

He said grass around Ballarat would reach the stage of being fully dead in around a month, with the team set to come back in a week to do more tests when the grass will be at 80 per cent cured. 

CFA manager researcher and innovation David Nichols said there were around 50 30 x 30 metre plots which helped the CSIRO and CFA do research that was not being done anywhere else in the world.

“It helps the chief officer know what the level of fuel is like. It’s one of the inputs that he looks at when he declares a total fire ban in different districts,” said. 

Mr Cruz said the information would help make the fire behaviour models more effective. 

“If you have a fire you want to have a progression map to see how fast it will go and how long it will take to reach a certain property,” he said.

tom.cowie@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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