New technology to predict fires

New technology to predict fires

30 November 2011

published bywww.au.news.yahoo.com


Australia — Firefighters would be able to accurately predict the future path of bushfires and reduce the risks of catastrophes using world-first technology being developed by WA scientists and authorities.

With summer and the official start of the bushfire season opening tomorrow, FESA said it would look to trial the technology to see whether it improves its ability to respond to extreme blazes.

The system is a computer-generated simulator known as Australis that uses satellite images and data such as fuel loads and weather forecasts to track and predict the movements of bushfires.

Funded through $5.6 million of State and Federal Government money, the project has been driven by scientists from UWA and more lately, land information agency Landgate and FESA.

While it is only a third of the way through a three-year trial, its designers are expected to have it completed by July 2013.

New FESA Commissioner Wayne Gregson, who was given a demonstration of the simulator today, said it would be a critical tool in helping firefighters manage infernos and could ultimately save lives and homes.

Mr Gregson hoped that if the trial proved successful and the system’s design progressed smoothly, it could be brought on line in a meaningful way as early as next year.

“It’s about having better tools in your kit-bag so that you can make better operational decisions and if you’re making those decisions… then the outcomes of your response are going to be better and that means we can save more lives and property,” he said.

George Milne, of the school of computer science and software engineering at UWA, said researches would simulate data from major historical fires to test the accuracy of the system’s predictions.

Landgate boss Mike Bradford said the agency had long had the capacity through its satellite images to track bushfires but the simulator would allow authorities to forewarn people and communities further in advance.
 


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