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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 19(7)

Meteorological conditions and wildfire-related houseloss in Australia

Raphaele Blanchi A B D, Chris Lucas A C, Justin Leonard A B and Klara Finkele A C

A Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre, 340 Albert Street, East Melbourne, VIC 3002, Australia.
B CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, PO Box 56, Highett, VIC 3190, Australia.
C Bureau of Meteorology, PO Box 1636, Melbourne, VIC 3001, Australia.
D Corresponding author. Email: raphaele.blanchi@csiro.au

International Journal of Wildland Fire 19(7) 914-926 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF08175
Submitted: 13 October 2008  Accepted: 25 February 2010   Published: 5 November 2010

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Wildland fires or bushfires occurring under very severe weather conditions are likely to be destructive to infrastructure. This paper reports an analysis of the statistical relationship between house loss and the fire weather under which it occurred. A dataset was derived from 54 bushfires that occurred in Australia between 1957 and 2009, which resulted in the destruction of 8256 houses. The dataset was statistically compared with relevant local meteorological conditions, and a standardised calculation of the McArthur Forest Fire Danger Index (FFDI) applied. The analysis highlights how house loss statistics in Australia are dominated by a few iconic events that have occurred during very intense fire weather with the majority of losses occurring on days when the FFDI exceeds 100. Virtually all of the house loss has occurred above the 99.5th percentile level in the distribution of daily FFDI for each of the regions considered. Regulatory tools will need to focus on the most appropriate fire weather potential of a local area in order to ensure that infrastructure is adequately designed. In Australia, little house loss has occurred on days where the FFDI did not exceed 50, suggesting that historic building practices may be maintained in regions where this level is not likely to be exceeded.


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