Brumby douses fires with $22m system

In the wake of the deadly Black Saturday bushfires in 2009, Victorian Premier John Brumby has today announced $21.5 million to build a fire prevention system that can provide authorities with detailed information about a fire within minutes of it being discovered.

In the wake of the deadly Black Saturday bushfires in 2009, Victorian Premier John Brumby has today announced $21.5 million to build a fire prevention system that can provide authorities with detailed information about a fire within minutes of it being discovered.

The new computerised digital mapping system brings together the existing FireWeb system with PhoenixWeb, a fire simulation and mapping system developed at the University of Melbourne. The new and improved FireWeb has been trialled for the past 12 months and during the last fire season. The software will be able to provide up information such as direction, speed and intensity of a fire within minutes of it being discovered.

"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," Brumby said in a statement. "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."

The system will vastly improve the ability of firefighters to determine which communities will be hit by fire and issue early warnings to them, the premier said, all within minutes of the fire being discovered. Such action would have taken hours previously, Brumby added.

"It will also assist fire incident management teams in delivering information to firefighters on the ground to assist them in their suppression efforts," he said.

FireWeb is available to all fire authorities who will then be able to use the information from the system to warn the general public through the traditional methods such as the Country Fire Authority website and the regular media outlets.

The $21.5 million investment includes speed improvements on the system, backup servers, a training program for controllers and improved tracking for firefighting staff and vehicles.

(Front page image credit: FHR_Fire image by Alex Miroshnichenko, CC2.0)

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