World-leading bushfire research facility opened

24 November 2008

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Australia — Senator Kim Carr, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, today opened the CSIRO Pyrotron in Canberra, marking a turning point in Australian bushfire research.

The CSIRO Pyrotron is a 25-metre-long aluminium wind tunnel with a five-metre-long fuel bed and a viewing section for burning bushfire fuel such as grasses, forest litter and small logs.

“With the opening of the Pyrotron, Australian researchers will truly be using fire to fight fire,” Senator Carr said.

“This facility will improve fire safety and fire-fighting by allowing researchers to conduct controlled experiments that will increase our understanding of bushfire behaviour.

“There is only one other facility like this in the world, and none that can match the CSIRO Pyrotron’s capabilities. It is likely to attract many overseas researchers, as well as scientists from around Australia.”

It has been estimated that over the past 40 years, bushfires have resulted in around 250 deaths, destroyed 4,500 homes and cost $2.5 billion.

“Bushfires are a part of the Australian landscape, and understanding how bushfires behave is critical to managing landscapes and limiting the social, environmental and economic impacts of wildfires,” Senator Carr said.

“Bushfires can also be disastrous for cultural, heritage and ecological values, biodiversity, and water catchments and water quality.

“When we count the cost of bushfires, we must also factor in the amount of carbon they release into the atmosphere, and its effect on climate change.

“This research will help Australian communities coexist with the natural environment in a safe and sustainable way,” Senator Carr said.

In more than 40 years of research, CSIRO has made a significant contribution to our understanding of bushfire behaviour.

This has led to improvements in fire-fighting, fire management and fire safety, both for the community and for emergency services personnel – including the fire danger warning system all travellers on Australian roads are familiar with.

The controlled and repeatable experiments made possible by the Pyrotron will add to the knowledge gained from traditional studies in the field.

It will allow researchers to study the combustion and spread of fires in complete safety, even on days of high temperatures and low humidity.

Photos of the launch will be available

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