The Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) is providing regional bushfire management groups with updates on improvements to the Australian Fire Danger Rating System (AFDRS) in the lead-up to the upcoming southern high-threat bushfire season.
The AFDRS was introduced nationally in September 2022 to provide more accurate localised information to communities about fire risks, replacing a system that had been in place since the 1960s.
DFES executive director of the Rural Fire Division, Murray Carter, said the new system was closely monitored and further improvements had already been made and would continue to be made as emerging issues are identified.
"The introduction of the AFDRS has provided an improved capability in the use of information on fuels to determine fire danger ratings and support fire management decision-making," Mr Carter said.
"One of the main changes last September was the introduction of the Fire Behaviour Index (FBI), a new scale of fire danger that produces outputs across eight different fuel types compared to just the two fuel types (grass and forest) under the previous system."
The AFDRS now has accessed more advanced satellite technology to determine grass curing levels, which influences fire danger ratings.
"We have made these improvements because access to accurate grassland fuel condition information is crucial to enabling fire and land managers to determine the fire danger in grasslands."
Mr Carter said another significant improvement was that the technology provided an enhanced ability to incorporate the use of local knowledge through ground observations for curing and grassland fuel loads.
"This capability is being supported through the development of a Statewide network of grassland observers, who are trained to observe and report on grassland fuel State information, including curing, fuel load and condition," he said.
Another key benefit provided by the AFDRS is the ability to refine, update and constantly improve its application and functionality as new science and evidence becomes available.
To facilitate learnings from the 2022-23 fire season, WA is also actively participating in a national review of the system.
The findings and recommendations, along with stakeholder feedback and ongoing system analysis, will identify future changes required to support operational decision-making, regulatory triggers, policy, development and community education.
Several system updates have already been made to improve AFDRS forecasting, including:
Updates on the review processes, outcomes and continuous improvements are being provided to regionally based bushfire management groups before the start of the southern high-threat bushfire season.
Feedback and queries can be submitted to the AFDRS at AFDRS@dfes.wa.gov.au.
Further information on the AFDRS and associated training products can be accessed at www.dfes.wa.gov.au
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