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Comparison of Techniques for Visualising Fire Behaviour

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During every Australian summer fires are common in the south-eastern region of the continent. The combined forces of climate, topography and vegetation make Victoria in particular, one of the most fire prone regions on earth ( DSE 2003). Throughout its history, Victoria has seen a number of devastating bushfires, including Black Friday 1939, Ash Wednesday 1983, and more recently in the northeast of the State in 2003. The loss of life combined with the damage caused to land and property results in a heavy cost to the community. In Victoria, two of the organizations involved in fire management are the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) and the Country Fire Authority (CFA). Both use fire ‘meters’ to determine potential fire behaviour given certain conditions. Values for temperature, wind speed, fuel load and vegetation type are input and a numerical estimate of fire danger given. There are a number of different meters used for different locations and environmental types. The most common meter used in Victoria is the McArthur Meter ( CSIR0 2001b). The output data from this meter is numerical, and provides no spatial representation of fire danger. This paper looks at a variety of techniques used to visualise the numerical output from the McArthur Forest Fire Danger Meter. The article outlines the different models used by fire managers to simulate a fire situation, to assess future scenarios and for decision making involving fire management. Particular emphasis is placed on the McArthur Forest Fire Danger Meter as this is commonly used by fire departments in Australia. The article then focuses on geographical visualisation and a number of techniques employed to convey spatial information are discussed. The article then goes on to describe the fire simulation prototypes created for a study, a visualisation proof-of-concept product for organizations involved in managing bushfires in Australia. Finally, results from the evaluation of the prototype are presented.

Keywords: Fire modelling; geographic visualisation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: School of Mathematical and Geospatial Sciences RMIT University

Publication date: 2007-08-01

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