Research findings

The HighFire Risk Project



Citation McRae, R.H.D., Sharples, J.J. & Weber, R.O. (2007). Are big fires inevitable? Proceedings 2007 AFAC Conference, Hobart.

ARE BIG FIRES INEVITABLE? Perspectives from the HighFire Risk Project.

Author(s) R.H.D. McRae, J.J. Sharples and R.O.Weber
Abstract The HighFire Risk Project seeks to understand the drivers of bushfire risk in and adjacent to the high country. Using literature reviews, studies of large fires and field studies we are building a clearer picture of those drivers.
  • The role of ruggedness as an initiator of fire, through influences of lightning ignition preval ence.
  • Nocturnal low-level jets, subsidence inversions and other dew point anomalies, giving peak FFDIs at nighttime.
  • Dry slots of dry upper air causing catastrophic fire expansion.
  • Unusual combustion processes and landscape scale flashovers.
  • Violent pyro-cumulonimbus development, with global -scale impacts
  • Mountain wind waves with the potential to resonate with the landscape.
  • Foehn winds, a little understood feature of Australian landscapes.
  • Dynamic channelling, a process the can create landscape -scale flami ng zones.
  • Terrain chimneys, shown by European research to create exponential increases in rates -ofspread.
  • Plume-driven fires, a phase -transition to totally different fire behaviour drivers.
  • The role of ruggedness as a fire limiter, of significance for prot ection efforts.
The role of establishment of a suitable fuel -age mosaic is dicussed in the context of this risk picture. We conclude that the High Country is a landscape that is prone to multiple ignitions in places where fire suppression is most difficult . Further it is a landscape that is prone to a range of processes that can affect the probabilities of fire escalation. It is also a landscape that stores the effects of past large fires in the landscape -scale fuel -age distribution the last big fire primes the landscape fo r the next one.
This framework makes clearer the way to avoid the next catastrophic fire.
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