Vic Govt invests $21m in fire prediction system

The Victorian Government has 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.

Premier John 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.

“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.”

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.

“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.

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