Detecting bushfires earlier could save $8b

08 September 2020

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AUSTRALIA – Detecting bushfires within half an hour could save the Australian economy more than $8 billion over 30 years.

Australian National University researchers have modelled various bushfire scenarios in a bid to see the economic impact.

If climate change results in more fires and they’re not detected any earlier, it could cost $2.4 billion per year by 2049.

With early detection this could go down to $1.9 billion per year.

Study co-author Matthew Gray says investing in early detection won’t just help the economy.

“Bushfires don’t just have a terrible economic cost – they destroy habitats and homes, kill wildlife and people and leave our landscape struggling to recover for years to come,” Professor Gray says.

“So investing in early detection won’t just lead to economic benefits; it will lead to a range of extremely important non-economic returns.”

The researchers looked at multiple scenarios including large fires being detected 30 minutes and 60 minutes earlier, and all sized fires responded to within 30 minutes.

The modelling also envisioned possible increases in bushfires due to climate change, with scenarios of no extra fires, 15 per cent more and 30 per cent more also looked at.

Under the highest climate change scenario of 30 per cent more fires, $8.2 billion could be saved if all blazes were responded to in half an hour.

Research co-author Nicholas Biddle says the time between a fire igniting and first response is incredibly important for its eventual size.

“The sparse geographic distribution of populations in Australia also mean that fires may not be detected in a sufficient time to deploy resources before they reach a size that makes them uncontrollable, particularly without significant investment in remote detection resources,” Professor Biddle said.

“Investing in early detection has the potential to help meet this not insignificant challenge.”

Australian Associated Press

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