Australia's fire season is over, and investigators are looking at the next one


SYDNEY, Australia – On 2 March, for the first time in 240 days, there was not a single forest fire in the state of New South Wales. The Rural Disability Service in the region has declared the worst fire season in history, during which 25 people were killed in NSW, formally. In those eight months, 6 per cent, or 13.6 million acres, about a third of what Australians call home is closed.

The world of feelings, which relied on fire earlier this year, has radically changed the ongoing coronavirus crisis. But during the fire & # 39; s destruction the lessons left its moment. As Australia looks to the future of more dangerous fires, scientists and officials are working together to develop fire forecasting technology that allows firefighters to work faster and safer as the season progresses. – expected to be similarly bright – begins just a few months.

What Australia continues to learn can be applied elsewhere – from any other country, including the United States, to outer space, a computer that can withstand blockade, interruptions and otherwise unacceptable in other situations on the planet .

In the event of a fire, one of the most difficult issues facing the operations team is who and what they are deployed to, and what resources can be maintained in case of need elsewhere.

"If you put them on the reserve in the event of more fires, or if you hit them too hard, it would mean the difference between fire extinguisher for 15 minutes and one that will last for weeks," Greg Mullins said. a former Fire and Rescue Commissioner of New South Wales. In order to reach this goal properly, firefighters must identify the most dangerous areas.

Central to the latest technologies is the ability to predict the impact of Australia's natural vegetation on fire. Special fire-pot plants; in their dryness, the spill of the spill is easily absorbed, and the roots can be blown in front of the fire, among other lights. This event is known as & # 39; sparkling, & # 39; and it is one of the most difficult predictors of fire behavior.

An Australian computer software program called Phoenix RapidFire imitates such a model, facilitating the spread of fires in this area only. It relies on predictions of fire behavior in Victoria, where it was introduced following the Black Saturday wildfires that killed 173 people in 2009, and New South Wales. A similar program, FarSite, is used in the United States.

In the event of a fire, analysts at the NSW fire service center in Sydney, which may be 200 miles or more, enter Phoenix variables, such as the location of the fire, the time it started and the ground. Near the fire, regional groups provide information to the rear center, where the fire management team, with the help of manuals, determine where supplies such as firefighters, vehicles and water-helicopters are sent.

Technology still does not work for people when predicting the spread and behavior of a particular fire. Simon Heemstra, director of planning and forecasting services for the NSW Rural Fire Service, with a Ph.D. In the nature of the fire, Phoenix described it as often a "triage device."

"Nine times out of 10," he says, the book's analysts have produced far more accurate results. Through their experience, analysts are able to add credibility to the fire culture, something that "the computer is now unable to understand." But where it fits in with the computer model, Dr. Heemstra said, he analyzes several fires at once and is one of the most dangerous – and thus one of the book's analysts.

Hay & # 39; s National Science Association of Australia, the Commonwealth Science and Industry Association, has developed a computer platform called Spark, which aims to improve Phoenix.

Phoenix was built to predict the fire behavior of the forest and grass, Dr. Heemstra said, so several kinds of fuel, such as the cutting, "is a bit of an attempt to set iron square hole round." Spark, because it uses specific equations for each type of fuel, is very sensitive and reliable. It could be the “next step in transformation” for firefighting models, Dr. Heemstra said, and the NSW Fire Service hopes to use it at the start of next season.

While fire behavior models such as Phoenix and Spark help predict the spread of fire, unmanned technology may predict where a fire can start. Currently, drones are often used to monitor wildfire fires. Forest fires are particularly hot, and are relatively stable, making them less reliable than flying planes or anyone who is close to operating the device.

Firefighting conditions in Australia are enough to make it worse. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, Calif., Was exploring CSIRO, the possibility of artificial intelligence tests for drones, rovers and satellites – not yet developed but for future space exploration – for fires. This software would need to prevent adverse conditions on other planets, such as "hot temperatures, low visibility and rising winds," said Natasha Stavros, a systems engineer at J.P.L., in an email.

As Australia looks to a new era in both heat & # 39; I repeated, researchers, government organizations and firefighters are also increasingly looking for ways to help the environment looga to settle long-term.

Scientists with the University of Melbourne Bushfire Behaviour and Group Management have developed the Fire Emissions Operating System, or FROST, which aims to predict fire behavior during the next century, taking into account how plants change when burned. Large trials are expected to begin next year.

FROST considers uncertainty using Bayesian networks, statistical predictive tools designed to ask "What if?" for each guess and then produce as many possible results as possible.

When faced with a live fire, firefighters need to be determined within minutes within what to defend. Wild and wild animals are essential for both people and property. By easing the long-term risks, FROST can help find and protect specific wildlife areas or plant species in a fire-prone area that is less susceptible to flames.

In late January, Trent Penman, a forest fire risk leader who led the team's & # 39; FROST & # 39; s program, used the program to identify areas that might be turning into an al-ash tree. , which is particularly susceptible to recurrence. of fire. The alpine ash plants die from a massive fire, fresh from the remaining seeds on the ground. But these trees take 20 years to reach maturity. If the area is burned again before then, the young trees will die before the new seeds are left behind.

# 39; alpine ash & # 39; it is the best place, says Dr. Penman. Severe fires that occur over the next 10 years could mean that species are endangered "very quickly."

Technological advancement is important, Mr said. Mullins, a former N Fire Chief and rescue officer, but the "big ticket item" is addressing climate change. It's like catching gas and shutting down all homes and burning cars around but not turning off gas. Well, it will continue. All the houses, and everything: it doesn't matter how much water you put on it, they will go down again. ”

"The defenders are simple," he said. Deal with the basic problem and all other problems will go away, and eventually. ”