The Parks and Wildlife Service manage over 50 percent of the land area of Tasmania. Reducing the risk of uncontrolled bushfires is a priority which requires strategic planning.
The Parks and Wildlife Service have a team of fire specialists, fire operations staff, administration personal and fire crew, working hard to reduce bushfire risk, as well as to supress fires. Each autumn and spring when weather is suitable, fire officers undertake fuel reduction burns across the state. These planned burns aim to reduce the fuel load and risks to communities, while maintaining cultural and ecological values of the environment.
The first step in planning to mitigate the threat of bushfires is to determine where there is the highest risk.
Modelling bushfire risk
To assist with managing bushfire risk the Parks and Wildlife Service has developed a strategic model. First developed in 2008, the Bushfire Risk Assessment Model known as BRAM, does just this. This model has capacity to define and analyse the interaction between the likelihood of bushfire and the consequence of bushfire impact.
Many factors align for an area to become prone to fires. The likelihood of a bushfire occurring is determined by a combination of fuel load and type, ability to detect and suppress fires, and proximity to an historical ignition source.
Bushfires are considered to be a 'risk' when they pose a threat to important assets and values.
These assets and values include:
- Human life
- Man-made values (e.g. houses, schools, transmission lines)
- Cultural values
- Natural values – based on lists of threatened species, flora, fauna and geo-conservation
- Other economic values (e.g. production forest, agriculture, vineyards, fruit production).
The assets and values are assigned a relative worth and given a score. The scores are derived after extensive consultation with relevant experts. The consequence of loss of these items can vary from insignificant to catastrophic - for example the loss of a single home dwelling will be assigned a different value compared to the loss of a hospital.
Using the International standard for risk managment guidelines (ISO) 31000, the BRAM displays four categories of risk. A matrix determines level of risk by referencing the combination of consequence of loss against the likelihood of a bushfire occurring. Other useful outputs include insight into fire intensity and the potential rate of fire spread.
Since its development the BRAM model has won several awards. The model has been refined, improved and updated annually.
The picture is big
Research work undertaken by the University of Tasmania has resulted in 'climate future weather' data. This data has been kindly made available to the Parks and Wildlife Service.
Surprisingly using this data, BRAM has the capacity to display risk levels out to the end of the century!
The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area Bushfire and Climate Change research project (Press (2016) recognised the value of the BRAM to state - and recommended for the BRAM to be made available outside the Parks and Wildlife Service. This resulted in the web portal being developed and the BRAM tool will soon be available to other land managers and utility organisations.
Based on their specific land management objectives, specialists will be able to adjust input weighting of the various values. This will enable them to determine what affect fire mitigation measures may have on the overall risk level, and thus provide important information for planners.
The model is updated automatically on a daily basis.
The BRAM tool generates maps based on the value given to various assets and the likelihood of loss to a bushfire.
Thank you to our partners
The BRAM tool utilises data from a multitude of sources. The PWS wishes to thank the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania, the Bureau of Meteorology, Bushfire and Natural Hazard Cooperative Research Centre, National Aerial Firefighting Centre and Tasmania Fire Service for access to valuable data.
For further information on these models or request to gain access to BRAM please contact firstname.lastname@example.org