Australia — Leading fire researchers will be dispatched to investigate the significance of Tasmania’s bushfires even as funding for the main national research centre runs out.
The Bushfire Co-operative Research Centre was asked by the Tasmania Fire Service to study community preparedness and the warning messages sent ahead of the blazes.
The fires have destroyed about 100 buildings and been declared a catastrophe by the Insurance Council of Australia.
The researchers will be drawn from the centre’s partners including the universities of Tasmania, La Trobe, Western Australia, Murdoch and RMIT, according to a media release from the centre. Advertisement
As conditions settle, the probe may be extended to include the behaviour of the fires, the response to them, and to “the loss or survival of particular houses and other structures, and issues specific to the high number of tourists in the region”, the statement said.
“The data gathered will inform not just the residents of Tasmania and the Tasmania Fire Service, but communities and fire agencies across Australia and New Zealand,” Gary Morgan, the chief executive of the Bushfire CRC, said.
“It is vital that researchers are on the scene reasonably early to gather the evidence and data, so we would expect to deploy teams within days.”
Even as the country faces some of its most severe fire conditions since the Black Saturday events in February 2009, the centre is in the process of using up its remaining funding.
Federal funding will last only until the end of June and there are no plans for new research, said Mr Morgan.
“The vital research that follows major fires is only possible through the national approach taken by the Bushfire CRC. This collaboration was not available 10 years ago, before the Bushfire CRC was formed,” Mr Morgan told Fairfax Media.
Work conducted by the national research centre includes the WA bushfires of January 2011, Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires in 2009, and the Eyre Peninsula fires of 2005.
“The findings from these previous task forces have informed inquiries including the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission,” Mr Morgan said.
In a posting on the centre’s website last month, Mr Morgan noted that while the federal government is looking at the possibility of creating a Disaster Resilience CRC, a gap in research into fires and other disasters will open assuming the new CRC begins in mid 2014.
“That leaves a full 12 months from the end of our CRC federal funding until new funding comes in, which by no means is ever guaranteed,” Mr Morgan said in his posting.