Previous Oliphant Science Awards School Coordinator, now Acting Manager Partners in Bushfire Safety at the South Australian Country Fire Service Chris Sedunary has put together the information below to help students completing a Poster in 2020 within the topic title of The Science of Bushfires!
‘Science informs us of many more aspects of bushfires such as how they can be important for some environments, the Department for Environment’s fire science page has information on this https://www.environment.sa.gov.au/topics/fire-management/fire-science . There are other links between science and bushfires that you might be less aware off.
Fire Behaviour Modelling and Predictions:
Once a bushfire has started, fire services may have fire behaviour analysts working to predict how fast the fire will move through a landscape and where it will be in the future. Analysts use computer software that simulates a fire’s movement through the landscape which uses weather conditions, the vegetation that is burning, and the way that hills and valleys affect a fires intensity to predict where the fire will go and how long it will take. If you would like to see an example compare the Pinery fire prediction map and the final burn shape of the fire (you can find these with a Google search). The ability to predict fire behaviour and model where fires will go is only possible through years of scientific research into bushfires undertaken by Universities, Fire Services, and the CSIRO. Fire services can use these predictions to help with decision making, such as working out where to send to firefighting resources and which towns need to be warned first that their safety is in danger.
Emergency Warnings and Messages
One of the most important parts of any disaster is getting the right information out to people quickly to help them make decisions about their own safety. Because fires can be fast moving and dangerous it is important that warnings are very clear and written in such a way that people can understand them so that they take the right action. A scientific approach and understanding of Psychology has been used to research how people read and understand warning messages in dangerous situations and this informs how the messages are structured.
Bushfire Safer Places
The CFS designates areas called Bushfire Safer Places which are areas that have been deemed to provide some level of protection from the heat and flames of a bushfire. These are the safest places to be during a bushfire. The way these areas are determined is by measuring how much vegetation is in an area and doing a calculation of how hot a fire would be if that vegetation burned. Using physics and an understanding of heat transfer, heat radiation, and energy we can work out how far away you would need to be from the vegetation to not burn from the heat radiation.
Hopefully these three examples point out some links that you may not have thought of and help you see other ways that science help us make decisions in the real world and save lives. ‘
Remember the Country Fire Service also has lots of resources, videos and downloads available on their website, so give them a visit - https://www.cfs.sa.gov.au/site/resources.jsp
Image accessed from: www.adelaidenow.com.au