How do weather and terrain contribute to firefighter entrapments in Australia?Sebastien Lahaye A D , Jason Sharples A , Stuart Matthews B , Simon Heemstra B , Owen Price C and Rachel Badlan A
A School of Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences, University of New South Wales Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia.
B New South Wales Rural Fire Service, 15 Carter Street, Lidcombe, NSW 2141, Australia.
C Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfires, University of Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia.
D Corresponding author. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
International Journal of Wildland Fire - https://doi.org/10.1071/WF17114
Submitted: 2 August 2017 Accepted: 10 November 2017 Published online: 15 February 2018
Adverse weather conditions and topographic influences are suspected to be responsible for most entrapments of firefighters in Australia. A lack of temporally and spatially coherent set of data however, hinders a clear understanding of the contribution of each weather type or terrain driver on these events. We investigate coronial inquiries and internal fire agencies reports across several Australian states from 1980 to 2017 and retrieve 45 entrapments. A first analysis reveals that most entrapments happen during large fires and that the number of deaths has decreased over the last few decades. Comparing the meteorological and topographical conditions of the entrapments with the conditions of a reference set of fires without entrapment, we build a linear regression model that identifies the main contributors to firefighter entrapment. A change in wind direction, which was associated with 42% of the incidents examined, is the main factor contributing to entrapments. Interaction between strong winds and steep slopes also influences the likelihood of entrapment and suggests that dynamic fire behaviours may also play important roles. As further details of this relationship between dynamic fire propagation and firefighter entrapment is now required, the understanding of weather and terrain contribution is a first step to produce comprehensive safety guidance.
Additional keywords: dynamic fire behaviour, firefighter safety, ruggedness, wind direction change.
ReferencesAlexander ME, Buxton-Carr P (2011) Wildland fire suppression related fatalities in Canada, 1941–2010: a preliminary report. In ‘11th International Wildland Fire Safety Summit’, 4–8 April 2011, Missoula, MT, USA. (Ed. RL Fox) (International Association of Wildland Fire: Missoula, MT, USA)
Alexander ME, Cruz MG (2011) What are the safety implications of crown fires? In ‘Proceedings of 11th International Wildland Fire Safety Summit’, 4–8 April 2011, Missoula, MT, USA. (Ed. R Fox) (International Association of Wildland Fire: Missoula, MT, USA)
Alexander ME, Fogarty LG (2002) A pocket card for predicting fire behaviour in grasslands under severe burning conditions. Canadian Forest Service Fire Technology Transfer Note 25. (Natural Resources Canada: Ottawa, ON, Canada) Available at http://cfs.nrcan.gc.ca/pubwarehouse/pdfs/22777.pdf [Verified 15 January 2018]
Alexander ME, Thorburn WR (2015) LACES: adding an ‘A’ for anchor point(s) to the LCES wildland firefighter safety system. In ‘Current International Perspectives on Wildland Fires, Mankind and the Environment’. (Eds B Leblon, ME Alexander.) pp. 121–144. (Nova Science Publishers: New York, NY, USA)
Alexander ME, Mutch RW, Davis KM, Bucks CM (2017) Wildland fires: dangers and survival. In ‘Auerbach’s Wilderness Medicine’. (Ed. PS Auerbach.) pp. 276–318. (Elsevier Health Sciences: Philadelphia, PA, USA)
Australia Bureau of Meteorology (1985) Report on the meteorological aspects of the Ash Wednesday fires, 16 February 1983. (Australian Government Publishing Service: Canberra, ACT, Australia)
Australia Bureau of Meteorology (2017) ‘Weather station directory.’ Available at http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/data-services/ [Verified 15 June 2017]
Baxter J (1984) ‘Who burned Australia? The Ash Wednesday Fires.’ (New English Library: London, UK)
Blanchi R, Leonard J, Haynes K, Opie K, James M, Kilinc M, de Oliveira FD, van den Honert R (2012) Life and house loss database description and analysis: final report. CSIRO Bushfire CRC report to the Attorney-General’s Department. CSIRO EP-129645. (CSIRO: Melbourne, Vic., Australia) Available at https://doi.org/10.4225/08/584af3d322e91 [Verified 10 August 2017]
Blanchi R, Leonard J, Haynes K, Opie K, James M, de Oliveira FD (2014) Environmental circumstances surrounding bushfire fatalities in Australia 1901–2011. Environmental Science & Policy 37, 192–203.
| Environmental circumstances surrounding bushfire fatalities in Australia 1901–2011.CrossRef |
Burnham KP, Anderson DR (2003) ‘Model selection and multimodel inference: a practical information-theoretic approach.’ (Springer Science & Business Media: New York, NY, USA)
Bush Fire Council of NSW, NSW Rural Fire Service (Eds) (1978) Bush fire bulletin. (Bush Fire Council of NSW: Sydney, Australia). Available at http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-284283986 [Verified 4 May 2017]
Butler BW (2014) Wildland firefighter safety zones: a review of past science and summary of future needs. International Journal of Wildland Fire 23, 295–308.
| Wildland firefighter safety zones: a review of past science and summary of future needs.CrossRef |
Butler BW, Bartlette RA, Bradshaw LS, Cohen JD, Andrews PL, Putnam T, Mangan RJ (1998) Fire behavior associated with the 1994 South Canyon Fire on Storm King Mountain, Colorado. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Research Paper RMRS-RP-9. (Fort Collins, CO, USA)
Cardil A, Molina DM (2015) Factors Causing Victims of Wildland Fires in Spain (1980–2010). Human and Ecological Risk Assessment 21, 67–80.
| Factors Causing Victims of Wildland Fires in Spain (1980–2010).CrossRef | 1:CAS:528:DC%2BC3sXhvFCqt7fE&md5=9a286af512e0069de828dbe76a138e4fCAS |
CFA (1983) The major fires originating 16th February, 1983. (Country Fire Authority, Victoria: Melbourne, Vic., Australia) Available at http://nla.gov.au/nla.cat-vn6816681 [Verified 27 May 2017]
CFA (1999) Reducing the risk of entrapment in wildfires: a case study of the Linton fire. Country Fire Authority 0731176006. (Melbourne, Vic., Australia)
CFA (2016) Audit of health and safety critical risk controls for entrapments and burnover. Country Fire Authority D16/4674. (Melbourne, Vic., Australia)
Cheney NP, Sullivan AL (2008) ‘Grassfires fuel, weather and fire behaviour’, 2nd edn. (CSIRO Publishing: Melbourne, Vic., Australia)
Cheney P, Gould J, McCaw L (2001) The dead-man zone – a neglected area of firefighter safety. Australian Forestry 64, 45–50.
| The dead-man zone – a neglected area of firefighter safety.CrossRef |
Collins P (2006) ‘Burn: The epic story of bushfire in Australia.’ (Allen & Unwin: Sydney, NSW, Australia)
Coroners Court of Wollongong (1981) Inquest findings of Waterfall Fire at Sutherland 3/11/1980. (NSW Attorney General’s Department: Wollongong, NSW, Australia)
Costa P, Castellnou M, Larranaga A, Miralles M, Kraus D (2011) Prevention of large wildfires using the fire types concept. (Generalitat de Catalunya, Fire Paradox European Project: Barcelona, Spain) Available at www.efi.int/files/attachments/publications/handbook-prevention-large-fires_en.pdf [Verified 15 February 2017]
Cruz MG, Sullivan AL, Gould JS, Sims NC, Bannister AJ, Hollis JJ, Hurley RJ (2012) Anatomy of a catastrophic wildfire: The Black Saturday Kilmore East fire in Victoria, Australia. Forest Ecology and Management 284, 269–285.
| Anatomy of a catastrophic wildfire: The Black Saturday Kilmore East fire in Victoria, Australia.CrossRef |
Cruz MG, Gould JS, Alexander ME, Sullivan AL, McCaw WL, Matthews S (2015) A guide to rate of fire spread models for Australian vegetation. Revised edition. CSIRO Land and Water Flagship number 9780987206541. (AFAC: Melbourne, Australia)
Cruz MG, Hurley R, Bessell R, Nichols D (2016) Brucknell vehicle burn trial – report on fuels, weather and fire behaviour. (CSIRO: Canberra, ACT, Australia) Available at https://doi.org/10.4225/08/58518b95798ad [Verified 25 April 2017]
Dee DP, Uppala SM, Simmons AJ, Berrisford P, Poli P, Kobayashi S, Andrae U, Balmaseda MA, Balsamo G, Bauer P, Bechtold P, Beljaars ACM, van de Berg L, Bidlot J, Bormann N, Delsol C, Dragani R, Fuentes M, Geer AJ, Haimberger L, Healy SB, Hersbach H, Hólm EV, Isaksen L, Kållberg P, Köhler M, Matricardi M, McNally AP, Monge-Sanz BM, Morcrette JJ, Park BK, Peubey C, de Rosnay P, Tavolato C, Thépaut JN, Vitart F (2011) The ERA-Interim reanalysis: configuration and performance of the data assimilation system. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society 137, 553–597.
| The ERA-Interim reanalysis: configuration and performance of the data assimilation system.CrossRef |
Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (Vic.) (2017) Fire history overlay of most recent fires. Available at www.data.vic.gov.au [Verified 26 April 2017]
Department of Fire and Emergency Services (2015) Major incident review of the Lower Hotham and O’Sullivan fires. Department of Fire and Emergency Services, Perth, WA, Australia. Available at https://www.dfes.wa.gov.au/publications/MajorIncidentReports/DFES-MIR-LowerHothamandOSullivanFinalReport.pdf [Verified 15 January 2018]
Diakakis M, Xanthopoulos G, Gregos L (2016) Analysis of forest fire fatalities in Greece: 1977–2013. International Journal of Wildland Fire 25, 797–809.
| Analysis of forest fire fatalities in Greece: 1977–2013.CrossRef |
Edgar RA, Sharples JJ, Sidhu HS (2016) Examining the effects of convective intensity on plume attachment in three-dimensional trenches. In ‘Chemeca 2016: Chemical Engineering-Regeneration, Recovery and Reinvention’, 25–28 September 2016, Adelaide, SA, pp. 613–621. (Engineers Australia: Adelaide, SA, Australia)
Ellis PFM (2015) The likelihood of ignition of dry-eucalypt forest litter by firebrands. International Journal of Wildland Fire 24, 225–235.
Ferguson E (2016) Reframing rural fire management: report of the Special Inquiry into the January 2016 Waroona Fire. (Government of Western Australia Public Sector Commission: Perth, WA, Australia) Available at https://publicsector.wa.gov.au/document/reframing-rural-fire-management-report-special-inquiry-january-2016-waroona-fire [Verified 13 August 2017]
Fryer GK, Dennison PE, Cova TJ (2013) Wildland firefighter entrapment avoidance: modelling evacuation triggers. International Journal of Wildland Fire 22, 883–893.
| Wildland firefighter entrapment avoidance: modelling evacuation triggers.CrossRef |
Grose MR, Fox-Hughes P, Harris RMB, Bindoff NL (2014) Changes to the drivers of fire weather with a warming climate – a case study of southeast Tasmania. Climatic Change 124, 255–269.
| Changes to the drivers of fire weather with a warming climate – a case study of southeast Tasmania.CrossRef |
Haines DA (1988) A lower atmosphere severity index for wildland fires. National Weather Digest 13, 23–27.
Harris S, Mills G, Brown T (2017) Variability and drivers of extreme fire weather in fire-prone areas of south-eastern Australia. International Journal of Wildland Fire 26, 177–190.
| Variability and drivers of extreme fire weather in fire-prone areas of south-eastern Australia.CrossRef |
Herald and Weekly Times (1983) Ash Wednesday 1983 bushfires. In Herald and Weekly Times, date unknown.
Lahaye S, Curt T, Paradis L, Hely C (2014) Classification of large wildfires in south-eastern France to adapt suppression strategies. In ‘7th International Conference on Forest Fire Research’, 17–20 November 2014, Coimbra, Portugal. (Ed. DX Viegas) pp. 696–708. (ADAI: Coimbra, Portugal)
Lahaye S, Curt T, Hely C (2016) Which configurations cause entrapment risk? In ‘5th International Fire Behaviour and Fuels Conference’, 11–15 April 2016, Melbourne, Vic., Australia. (International Association of Wildland Fire: Portland, OR, USA; and Melbourne, Vic., Australia)
Lahaye S, Sharples J, Matthews S, Heemstra S, Price O (2017) What are the safety implications of dynamic fire behaviours? In ‘MODSIM2017, 22nd International Congress on Modelling and Simulation’, December 2017, Hobart, Tas., Australia. (Eds G Syme, D Hatton MacDonald, B Fulton, J Piantadosi) Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand, pp. 1125–1130. Available at https://www.mssanz.org.au/modsim2017/H10/lahaye.pdf [Verified 15 January 2018]
Leading Emergency Services (2012) Major incident review Black Cat Creek Fire 12 October 2012. Prepared for Department of Environment and Conservation. (Department of Fire and Emergency Services, City of Albany: Albany, NSW, Australia) Available at https://www.dfes.wa.gov.au/publications/MajorIncidentReports/Major%20Incident%20Review%20-%20Black%20Cat%20Creek%20Fire%20(October%202012).pdf [Verified 20 June 2017]
Legislative Council (2000) Report on Inquiry into the NSW Rural Fire Service. General Purpose Standing Committee number 5, Legislative Council number 6. (Sydney, NSW, Australia) Available at https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/committees/DBAssets/InquiryReport/ReportAcrobat/6005/RFS%20Final%20Report.pdf [Verified 15 March 2017]
Luke RH, McArthur AG (Eds) (1978) ‘Bushfires in Australia.’ (Australian Government Publishing Service: Canberra, ACT, Australia)
Mangan RJ (2007) Wildland firefighter fatalities in the United States: 1990–2006. National Wildfire Coordination Group, Safety and Health Working Team, National Interagency Fire Center. NWCG PMS 841, Boise, ID, USA.
McArthur AG (1967) Fire behaviour in eucalyptus forests. Forest Research Institute, Forest and Timber Bureau of Australia. Leaflet 107. (Canberra, ACT, Australia)
McLeod RN, Pascoe SM, Teague BG (2010) 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission: final report, Vol. 1. (Parliament of Victoria, 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission: Melbourne, Vic., Australia). Available at http://royalcommission.vic.gov.au/Commission-Reports/Final-Report.html [Verified 16 January 2018]
McRae RHD (1992) Prediction of Areas Prone to Lightning Ignition. International Journal of Wildland Fire 2, 123–130.
| Prediction of Areas Prone to Lightning Ignition.CrossRef |
McRae RHD, Sharples J (2013) A process model for forecasting conditions conducive to blow-up fire events. In ‘MODSIM2013, 20th International Congress on Modelling and Simulation’, December 2013, Adelaide, SA, Australia. (Eds J Piantadosi, RS Anderssen, J Boland) Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand, pp. 187–192. Available at https://www.mssanz.org.au/modsim2013/A3/mcrae.pdf [Verified 15 January 2018]
Milligan J (1992) ‘Ash Wednesday in Upper Beaconsfield.’ (Country Fire Authority: Melbourne, Vic., Australia)
Mills GA (2005) On the sub-synoptic scale meteorology of two extreme fire weather days during the Eastern Australian fires of January 2003. Australian Meteorological Magazine 54, 265–290.
Mills GA, McCaw WL (2010) Atmospheric stability environments and fire weather in Australia: extending the Haines index. Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research number 20. (Melbourne, Vic., Australia) Available at http://www.cawcr.gov.au/publications/technicalreports/CTR_020.pdf [Verified 15 March 2017]
National Wildfire Coordinating Group (2014) Incident response pocket guide. National Wildfire Coordinating Group, PMS 461 NFES 1077. (Boise, ID, USA) Available at https://www.nwcg.gov/publications/461 [Verified 15 January 2018]
New South Wales Government (2009) Coroners Act 2009 number 41. (Sydney, NSW, Australia) Available at http://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/#/view/act/2009/41 [Verified 12 March 2017]
New South Wales Rural Fire Service (2010) ‘Firefighters’ Pocket Book’, ver. 1.3. (New South Wales Rural Fire Service: Sydney, NSW, Australia)
Noble IR, Gill AM, Bary GAV (1980) McArthur’s fire-danger meters expressed as equations. Australian Journal of Ecology 5, 201–203.
| McArthur’s fire-danger meters expressed as equations.CrossRef |
O’Connor P, O’Connor BJ (1993) ‘Out of the ashes: The Ash Wednesday Bushfires in the south east of SA, 16th February 1983.’ (P. and B. O’Connor: Mount Gambier, SA, Australia)
Page WG, Butler BW (2017) An empirically based approach to defining wildland firefighter safety and survival zone separation distances. International Journal of Wildland Fire 26, 655–667.
| An empirically based approach to defining wildland firefighter safety and survival zone separation distances.CrossRef |
Potter BE (2002) A dynamics based view of atmosphere-fire interactions. International Journal of Wildland Fire 11, 247–255.
| A dynamics based view of atmosphere-fire interactions.CrossRef |
Potter BE, Hernandez JR (2017) Downdraft outflows: climatological potential to influence fire behaviour. International Journal of Wildland Fire 26, 685–692.
| Downdraft outflows: climatological potential to influence fire behaviour.CrossRef |
Raposo JR, Cabiddu S, Viegas DX, Salis M, Sharples J (2015) Experimental analysis of fire spread across a two-dimensional ridge under wind conditions. International Journal of Wildland Fire 24, 1008–1022.
Schapel AE (2007) Wangary bushfires inquest finding. (South Australia State Coroner’s Office: Adelaide, SA, Australia) Available at http://trove.nla.gov.au/version/33439676 [Verified 12 July 2017]
Sharples J (2009) An overview of mountain meteorological effects relevant to fire behaviour and bushfire risk. International Journal of Wildland Fire 18, 737–754.
| An overview of mountain meteorological effects relevant to fire behaviour and bushfire risk.CrossRef |
Sharples J, McRae RHD, Weber RO (2010) Wind characteristics over complex terrain with implications for bushfire risk management. Environmental Modelling & Software 25, 1099–1120.
| Wind characteristics over complex terrain with implications for bushfire risk management.CrossRef |
Sharples J, Cary GJ, Fox-Hughes P, Mooney S, Evans JP, Fletcher M-S, Fromm M, Grierson PF, McRae RHD, Baker P (2016) Natural hazards in Australia: extreme bushfire. Climatic Change 139, 85–99.
| Natural hazards in Australia: extreme bushfire.CrossRef |
Simpson CC, Sharples JJ, Evans JP (2016) Sensitivity of atypical lateral fire spread to wind and slope. Geophysical Research Letters 43, 1744–1751.
| Sensitivity of atypical lateral fire spread to wind and slope.CrossRef |
South Australia Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (2016) Bushfires and prescribed burns history. Data SA, Government of South Australia. Available at https://data.sa.gov.au/data/dataset/fire-history [Verified 16 January 2018]
State Coroner’s Office (2001) Report of the investigation and inquests into a wildfire and the deaths of five firefighters at Linton on 2 December 1998. (State Coroner’s Office, Victoria: Melbourne, Vic., Australia) Available at https://engage.vic.gov.au/download_file/1457/610 [Verified 8 February 2018]
Stevenson J (2001) Inquest into the deaths of Mark Douglas Cupit, Claire Wynne Dean, George Allan Fitzsimmons and Eric Furlan and inquiry into fire at Mt Kuring-Gai National Park: part heard. (Coroner’s Court: Westmead, NSW, Australia) Available at http://trove.nla.gov.au/version/27188361 [Verified 25 May 2017]
Storey M, Price O, Tasker E (2016) The role of weather, past fire and topography in crown fire occurrence in eastern Australia. International Journal of Wildland Fire 25, 1048–1060.
| The role of weather, past fire and topography in crown fire occurrence in eastern Australia.CrossRef |
The Age and the Advertiser (1983) Ash Wednesday: Wednesday, February 16, 1983. (Ed. Printing and Allied Trades Employers’ Federation of Australia) (The Age: Melbourne, Vic., Australia; and the Advertiser: Adelaide, SA, Australia)
Van Wagner CE (1977) Effect of slope on fire spread rate. Canadian Forestry Service, Bi-monthly Research Notes number 33: 7–8. (Edmonton, AB, Canada)
Viegas DX, Simeoni A (2011) Eruptive Behaviour of Forest Fires. Fire Technology 47, 303–320.
| Eruptive Behaviour of Forest Fires.CrossRef |
Viegas DX, Simeoni A, Xanthopoulos G, Rossa C, Ribeiro L, Pita L, Stipanicev D, Zinoviev A, Weber R, Dold J, Caballero D (2009) ‘Recent forest fire related accidents in Europe.’ (Ed. DX Viegas) (European Commission: Luxembourg)
Werth PA, Potter BE, Alexander ME, Clements CB, Cruz MG, Finney MA, Forthofer JA, Goodrick S, Hoffman CM, Jolly WM, McAllister SS, Ottmar RD, Parson RA (2016) Synthesis of knowledge of extreme fire behavior: volume 2 for fire behavior specialists, researchers, and meteorologists. Pacific Northwest Research Station, General Technical Report PNW-GTR-891. (USDA Forest Service: Portland, OR, USA) Available at https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/50530 [Verified 13 September 2017]
Wilson CC (1977) Fatal and near-fatal forest fires: the common denominators. The International Fire Chief 43, 10–15.
Wilson BJ (1983) Inquest touching the death of Thomas Anthony Bielecke, Keith Campbell, Gregory John Moon: inquiry into a fire at Royal National Park, Grays Point. Findings. (City Coroners Court: Glebe, NSW, Australia) Available at http://nswrfs.intersearch.com.au/uploads//internal%20documents/5276.pdf [Verified 17 June 2017]
Zhang Y, Lim S, Sharples J (2016) Modelling spatial patterns of wildfire occurrence in south-eastern Australia. Geomatics, Natural Hazards & Risk 7, 1800–1815.
| Modelling spatial patterns of wildfire occurrence in south-eastern Australia.CrossRef |