Firegroup seminar: Dr. Thomas Duff, University of Melbourne


Seminar room 3.01, Alexander Graham Bell building, King's Buildings


Tuesday, November 25, 2014 - 16:00 to 17:00

Understanding extreme fire events: lessons learnt from Southern Australia

Thomas J. Duff    The University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

With wet winters and hot dry summers, the landscape of Southern Australia has evolved to cope with periodic fire.   However; the combination of intense summer frontal weather systems (frequently leading to temperatures of above 40 degrees and winds above 50 knots) and the properties of the Eucalyptus forests that cover much of the landscape (where loosely held ribbons of bark can result in firebrands been transported for kilometres), results in some of the most extreme fire behaviour in the world.  These fires often characterised as ‘one day wonders’, where much of the damage occurs in a single day of spread.  In under 12 hours on a single day in 2009, the Black Saturday fires resulted in the loss of 173 lives and 2000 dwellings, with over 300,000 hectares burned.  As a result, forest management is focused on effective fire suppression, passive risk reduction (including regulating house construction) and risk reduction through prescribed burning.  A large portion of Australian research is focused on understanding the dynamics of fast moving fires.  At Melbourne University, this has included the development of PHOENIX RapidFire, (a landscape fire simulator that can provide rapid predictions to managers), a focus on landscape risk assessment methodologies and methods for tracking fire intelligence (such as the use of weather radar for fire observation).  This presentation will provide a background to the Australian context and highlight some of the emerging research focusing on reducing risks while maintaining landscape values.

Dr. Duff is an early career postdoctoral research working at the University of Melbourne.  Before research, he had an active career as a forester managing timber harvesting and fire management in the natural Eucalyptus forests of southern Australia.  He undertook his PhD at the University of Melbourne with a project focused on quantitative vegetation ecology.  He is now working in the Fire Management group at Melbourne on a wide array of topics including fire risk, statistical shape analysis, forest flammability dynamics, suppression modelling and quantitative ecology. 

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Martyn McLaggan

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