Local and international fire experts join Scion fire scientists to discuss extreme fire

For immediate release
7 March 2017

The 5th New Zealand Rural Fire Research Workshop in Christchurch on 7-8 March is hosted by New Zealand Rural Fire Research scientists from the Crown research institute Scion.

The workshop is focussing on the fire team’s achievements in building practical tools to enable fire managers to make better decisions in firefighting operations, using current and future developments in local and global fire research and technology.

“The discussion topics are especially relevant given the number of fires that have occurred this summer in the Coromandel, Hawkes Bay and Canterbury,” says Dr Tara Strand, Research Leader.

“Some of these fires have caused significant property and infrastructure loss and can be classified as extreme.

“We do not see the number of extreme fires in New Zealand that Australia and North America see but they are expected to become more common with future predicted climate change. We need to make sure we have the tools to predict extreme fire behaviour and provide support to fire fighters.”

New Zealand scientists and fire managers will be joined by experts from Canada, who will share their knowledge about modelling fire behaviour in light of the recent massive fires in Alberta. Also attending are experts from Australia and the United States, who will talk about atmospheric disturbance and smoke modelling.

Other topics include the possibilities offered by new technologies such as robotics and UAVs including hands on demonstrations and how communities react, respond and recover from disasters.

The workshop will also celebrate 25 years of rural fire research in New Zealand. Scion established the fire research group 25 years ago when forest and rural stakeholders recognised the need for improved knowledge of New Zealand fire conditions.

“Our research encompasses forestry owners, Department of Conservation and local government interests,” says Grant Pearce, Senior Fire Scientist.

“The purpose of our research is to reduce the damage caused by rural fires through fire mitigation and prevention, accurate predictions of fire behaviour, and decisions around evacuation or asset protection and understanding and learning from fire events to reduce the impacts, prevent reoccurrence and increase community resilience.”

The recent rural fire events in Coromandel, Hawkes Bay and Canterbury have again highlighted just how challenging managing the rural fire risk can be, says Tim Mitchell, National Rural Fire Authority.

“The knowledge gained through Scion’s rural fire research programme provides the understanding and tools needed by Fire Managers to help manage the rural fire risk.

“Gathering researchers and fire management personnel together ensures those involved in fire management have the most recent information on which to base their decisions, and that the researchers to hear about issues or challenges where their help may be needed.”