At the start of 2020, the world watched in horror as Australian bushfires burned an area the size of Germany and the UK combined.
The 2019–2020 Australian bushfire season has been the worst on record. Communities are reeling from the devastating impact of these fires, hundreds of millions of animals have been killed, and ecosystems badly damaged. Globally, areas including California and Brazil have also been ravaged by the deadliest and most destructive fires on record, while in Portugal, Bolivia and Chile, firestorms have threatened communities for the first time in recorded history.
There is an urgent need for applied research into how extreme fires behave and how we manage them to ensure we better prepare for and tackle disasters of this magnitude—or even prevent them outright.
BETWEEN 2000 AND 2018, 46 FIRESTORMS WERE CONFIRMED IN AUSTRALIA. IN 2019 ALONE, WE EXPERIENCED AT LEAST 30 SUCH EVENTS.
We must act now to develop sophisticated predictive tools for fire agencies and communities so that we can better forecast, map and model fire spread. We will work to improve the knowledge and capability of emergency services to better fight fires and build resilient communities, saving lives, livelihoods and critical ecosystems in the process.
Building on UNSW’s strength in science and climate change research, UNSW Canberra will establish a world-leading research hub known as the Centre for Bushfire Dynamics, Simulation and Modelling. With your support, UNSW researchers will build upon existing research to generate vital new knowledge and innovations in policy and practice that will mitigate the increasing threat of extreme fire behaviour in Australia and around the world.
New Knowledge for New Solutions
The UNSW Centre for Bushfire Dynamics, Simulation and Modelling will be a global home for cutting-edge bushfire research and game-changing advances in emergency service operations, urban design, planning codes and building standards.
UNSW Canberra's Professor Jason Sharples, a pioneer in maths-driven research into extreme and unusual fire activity, will lead the Centre. Powered by his teams’ expertise and with Professor Sharples’ decade of experience as a volunteer firefighter, the Centre will create a direct pathway between research and implementation, providing solutions to help confront the rapidly escalating global fire threat.
The Centre will operate in four key research areas to help develop predictive tools for fire agencies. Fire analysts will be able to model fire spread and more accurately predict which fires will develop into firestorms. Emergency services will be able to evacuate areas earlier, ensuring the safety of our communities and firefighters.