Scion’s fire research programme focuses on reducing the damage, costs and safety risks associated with wildfires in New Zealand.

Risk reduction is achieved through improved understanding and prediction of fire behaviour. We describe and quantify the factors that contribute to wildfire hazard as the basis for improved fire prediction and risk assessment.

The aims of our research are:

  • To quantify the environmental factors that contribute to rural fire risk.
  • To develop and analyse a database of fire frequency, causes, area burned and costs.
  • To analyse and assess social/political/economic factors that may contribute to the fire hazard in rural areas.

 Current and recent research in this area includes:

  • Fuels Modelling – description of fuel characteristics for New Zealand vegetation types and production of models for predicting biomass and available fuel loads. Previous work has identified and mapped fuel types and associated fire hazard from available data on land cover, and identified low flammability species for planting in fire-prone areas.
  • Fire Climate – describing the fire weather and climatic factors affecting wildfire risk in different parts of the country, through production of fire danger climatologies, and prediction of fire season severity and effects of climate variability and future climate change on fire danger.
  • Fire Statistics – analysing New Zealand wildfire records (at both the national and regional level) to identify trends in fire occurrence, area burned and fire causes which can be used as the basis for fire prevention planning.
  • Fire Risk from Human Causes – reviewing international literature on wildfires started by a range of human causes, and identifying options to reduce fire risk.
  • Insurance – investigating the role insurance plays in preventing loss and in the recovery process following rural fires.