Monday, May 28, 2012

Evidence in Australia's ashes

Martyn Pearce in PhysOrg about the "Black Saturday" bushfires in Australia: The numbers that belong to Black Saturday are extraordinary, and horribly sobering. ...But hidden within the numbers and the sheer horror of the day’s events, is hope. Hope for answers. Because while the scale of the fires was unprecedented, they also provided an unprecedented opportunity for quality research. Some of that research has been conducted by a team of 10 scientists, including Dr Phil Gibbons and Dr Geoff Cary from the Fenner School of Environment and Society at ANU.

The research team looked at 12,000 measurements from 500 houses affected by the Black Saturday fires. It was a sample size which had never been achieved before in bushfire research. ... Perhaps unsurprisingly, what they found suggested there was no simple solution. But they did find that one solution helped more than most.

“Clearing trees and shrubs within 40 metres of houses was the most effective form of fuel reduction,” says Gibbons. “This type of clearing was twice as effective as prescribed burning on Black Saturday.”... “Prescribed burning alone will not protect your house from fire – that’s an important thing for everyone to realise. We found that the proximity of prescribed burning was far more important than the amount of prescribed burning within the landscape,” says Gibbons.

“The recommendations of the Royal Commission focus on increasing the area of prescribed burning rather than where it should be conducted,” adds Cary. “But our research indicated that the proximity of prescribed burning to houses was more important than the total area of prescribed burning in the landscape.”...

A member of the Newham Rural Fire Brigade attending the 7 February 2009 Black Saturday fires at Kilmore East, Victoria, shot by Georgehobbs, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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