The United States Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture have renewed an international arrangement with Australia to continue a partnership that provides mutual assistance for wildland fire preparedness, suppression and post-fire recovery.
These agreements have existed for years but language was added during this revision to enhance prevention and presuppression activities. Here is how the National Wildfire Coordinating Group defines presuppression:
Activities in advance of fire occurrence to ensure effective suppression action. Includes planning the organization, recruiting and training, procuring equipment and supplies, maintaining fire equipment and fire control improvements, and negotiating cooperative and/or mutual aid agreements.
U.S. Embassy Canberra Chargé d’Affaires James Carouso and Emergency Management Australia Director-General Mark Crosweller signed the renewal of the Wildland Fire Management Arrangement January 23, 2017 in Australia. The arrangement builds on 15 years of close collaboration between firefighters, and allows for the sharing of personnel, research, and technology to boost the mutual wildland fire management capabilities.
Since the U.S. and Australia have opposite fire seasons, and because these countries use interchangeable methods and doctrine, a mutually beneficial mechanism was established in 2002 for quickly sharing trained personnel and critical resources.
Above: A helicopter flies over the Currandooley Fire near Tarago. New South Wales Rural Fire Service photo.
The Currandoole Fire has burned 6,054 acres (2,450 ha) and one structure in the Boro and Mount Fairy area south of Tarago, New South Wales.
On Tuesday a severe thunderstorm moved across the fire and dropped some rain, but not enough to extinguish the blaze. Firefighters will continue to strengthen containment lines Tuesday night ahead of challenging hot, dry and windy conditions predicted for Wednesday.
The DC-10 and RJ85 air tankers were dispatched and assisted firefighters on the ground.
The New South Wales Rural Fire Service, in the middle of their down under bushfire season, posted this photo yesterday with the following description:
Multi-agency briefing held this morning at NSW RFS State Operations Centre, ensuring all involved are aware and sharing details of current situation and latest weather forecasts for today. Currently we have 18 fires across NSW, 5 of which are yet to be contained. There are are over 60 vehicles and 200 personnel deployed, as well as 4 Rapid Aerial Response Teams (RART) and 20 aircraft tasked to assist.
UPDATE January 18, 2017: here is a better photo of the NSW RFS State Operations Center on January 18, 2017:
The video above shows a Aircrane helicopter scooping water and then dropping on a wildfire north of Sydney, New South Wales. As the aircraft flew over the ocean it lowered a pipe into the water with a scoop on the end, forcing about 2,500 gallons into its tank.
Below we see infrared video of the fire shot from a NSW Rural Fire Service aircraft, apparently in the early stages when the blaze was much smaller.
Above: The chance of above median maximum temperature in Australia, December through February.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology is predicting that the eastern half of their country will experience a summer that is warmer and dryer than normal. That season is just beginning; their highest temperatures usually occur in January and February, but Tuesday produced the hottest December day in Sydney in the last 11 years, hitting 39.2C (102.5F) at Sydney Airport.
Below is an excerpt from an article at Australia’s ABC News about how Tuesday’s weather could affect wildfires:
Fire danger warnings are in place across a large part of Australia, with hot temperatures and windy weather expected, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) says. Fire authorities are on alert in the south-eastern states, with total fire bans in place in regions of South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria, and a high danger in Tasmania.
Temperatures were forecast to reach the mid-30s in the southern states, with a maximum of 36C in Sydney and Adelaide, 34C in Melbourne and 33C in Canberra.
In Darwin, the maximum expected temperature was 34C, 29C in Hobart. Perth’s forecast top was a cooler 26C and Brisbane 29C.
High temperatures in several capital cities at the same time is “a bit different”, senior BOM meteorologist Claire Yeo said.
“Those hot temperatures ahead of that wind change [are] increasing the fire dangers into that very, very high to severe range,” Ms Yeo said
“But there is also an added impact that we don’t necessarily or aren’t necessarily able to reflect in the fire danger rating, and that’s the way the atmosphere behaves in these kinds of conditions.
“Today is a classic example where if a fire was to start in your particular area, the atmosphere is primed for [it]. If a smoke plume develops over that fire, it can get to quite an extensive height … and we see very erratic fire conditions and fire behaviour in that kind of atmospheric condition.”
Ms Yeo said more frequent fire danger ratings were expected in coming days.
.@NSWRFS Very Large Air Tanker assists over the Oaklands fire ground this afternoon. Fire under control at 4000ha. Pic:Splitters Creek RFB. pic.twitter.com/xh56aIEiMW
Above: the Aurora national bushfire prediction, detection, simulation and early warning system.
Researchers in Australia are designing a wildfire modeling system that firefighters can access on a portable device in the field even if they are not connected to the internet. The Australis Wildfire Simulator is intended to be part of Aurora, a national fire prediction, detection, simulation and early warning system that simulates bushfires in real time and rapidly communicates the spread predictions via the web, email and the National Telephone Early Warning System (NTEWS).
Researchers at The University of Western Australia are developing the new touchscreen device that can be mounted in a fire truck to help firefighters predict where and when a bushfire will spread.
The researchers are modifying bushfire simulation software Australis into a high-end tablet to provide accurate predictions of fire behaviour more rapidly than current methods.
Professor George Milne from UWA’s School of Computer Science and Software Engineering said the technology could protect lives, homes, crops and livestock in Western Australia’s bushfire prone areas.
“Having the Australis fire prediction technology in the cab of a fire truck or a farmer’s ute will enable first-responders to get the best information necessary to create appropriate firefighting and evacuation strategies,” Professor Milne said.
“This can happen in the very early stages of a bushfire, when time-critical responses are required.”
Professor Milne said the touchscreen device would complement the Aurora system used by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) which currently runs the simulator from one central location for all fires in WA.
“On a day where there are several bushfires across the state, it may take too long to predict each individual fire’s progress using a single system in the central headquarters,” Professor Milne said.
“The advantage to local brigades with access to this technology is that it will give them location-specific information about which communities are at risk and which need to be evacuated.”
The Australis system analyses data including geographical topography, vegetation types, WA bushfire prone hotspots, time since last burn, rate of spread, fuel accumulation and forecasted weather.
In a matter of minutes, and without internet connectivity, it can accurately predict where the fire could be from 30 minutes to 24 hours into the future.
Professor Milne said WA is unique in the world; it has bushfires burning every day of the year, from the north during the winter dry to the south in summer.
“This technology could significantly minimise the impact of bushfires, the loss of lives and homes, by predicting the direction, intensity and rate of bushfire spread in real time,” he said.
Funding is still required to get the technology off the ground and made available to local bushfire brigades.
Along with DFES, Department of Parks and Wildlife and Landgate, the University of Western Australia has an application for Royalty for Regions funding under consideration by the WA State Government.