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$21.5 MILLION TO FURTHER ENHANCE BUSHFIRE INFORMATION
Source: http://www.premier.vic.gov.au/
Source Date: Thursday, August 26, 2010
Focus: Health
Country: Australia
Created: Aug 30, 2010

Premier, John Brumby, today launched an Australian-first fire prediction and early warning system that will deliver specific and detailed information on the spread of fires to help protect the lives of Victorians in the event of a bushfire.

Mr Brumby outlined details of a new fully-computerised, digital mapping system which will provide up to six hours warning of the direction, speed and intensity of a fire within minutes – instead of hours – of it being discovered.

The system, which integrates the existing FireWeb system with an advanced computer mapping and fire simulation system called Phoenix RapidFire, has been trialled for the past 12 months and will become a key tool in Victoria’s firefighting effort in the upcoming bushfire season.

The Victorian Government will deliver $21.5 million to upgrade the FireWeb software and hardware to improve its speed even further, improve its mapping capabilities and to provide more comprehensive access for other firefighting agencies.

“Black Saturday highlighted that our mapping and fire prediction systems needed improving. One of the key messages from the Royal Commission was that early warning of bushfires plays an extremely important role in making our community safer,” Mr Brumby said.

“This new technology is a world’s best-practice computer system that integrates critical fire, Bureau of Meteorology weather data, topographical information and on ground fuel data and maps it immediately in digital format for use by fire authorities to predict the path and intensity of fires.

“This will vastly improve the ability of fire authorities to determine which communities will be impacted by fire and deliver early and accurate warnings to them. This will happen within minutes of the fire being discovered rather than what could have taken hours previously.

“It will also assist fire incident management teams in delivering information to firefighters on the ground to assist them in their suppression efforts.”

Mr Brumby said information on FireWeb would immediately be made available to fire authorities to inform public warnings through One Source One Message, DSE and CFA websites and delivered to media outlets that have a Memorandum of Understanding to provide emergency warnings.

“Members of the community will be able to go to those websites or turn on their televisions and radios and access the warnings and information generated by FireWeb almost immediately after a fire has been discovered,” he said.

The $21.5 million Victorian Government investment will:
  • Further improve the speed and capacity of the system;
  • Increase capacity of the software to allow greater access by partner agencies;
  • Full backup of the system through new computer servers;
  • Establishing a training program for incident controllers in fire prediction mapping; and,
  • Allow better tracking of firefighting staff and fire vehicles.

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Gavin Jennings said the FireWeb and Phoenix RapidFire system, which was developed by Dr Kevin Tolhurst from the University of Melbourne, had been praised by visiting firefighting teams from across the world.

“This system has the capacity to calculate the potential spread of fire across the landscape under different weather, fuel load and fire suppression scenarios,” Mr Jennings said.

“Previously, predictions about fire behaviour have been hand drawn on a map and which took more time to be entered into our fire mapping system.

“We believe the new FireWeb system will provide exactly the type of early warning information the Royal Commission report said would help make Victoria safer.”

Mr Jennings said the FireWeb and Phoenix RapidFire system was trialled as a pilot system last fire season and would be live in time for this fire season.

“It will become the primary system for our bushfire response in Victoria,” he said.

The Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Bob Cameron, said the FireWeb system brought together information from across the fire services.

“As well as the DSE FireWeb is accessed by the CFA and other partner agencies who are working on bushfires and planned burns and can be accessed at remote locations by authorised users from anywhere with internet access,” Mr Cameron said.

Mr Cameron said fire authorities would be able to access information from FireWeb to enable warnings to be disseminated to the public.

“The public external system will also allow the community to access information on the location and timing of planned burns. They will also be able to apply for automated information on planned burns to be delivered to them via email or SMS,” he said.
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