Better early fire detection could save $8b over 30 years: ANU

Early bushfire detection could save the economy $8.2 billion over the next 30 years, according to Australian National University modelling.

Research led by the ANU’s Centre for Social Research and Methods examined how much money would be saved between 2020 and 2049 under three fire detection scenarios: a 30-minute reduction in detection time for large fires; a 60-minute reduction in detection time for large fires; and all fires, large and small, responded to within 30 minutes.

The study found that under a high climate change scenario and if all fires were responded to within 30 minutes the economy would save $8.2 billion in 2019 terms.

Study co-author Professor Nicholas Biddle said investing in early fire detection had the potential to offer a powerful and practical tool to reduce bushfire risk, particularly in the context of climate change.

“Research shows one of the key predictors of whether a fire turns into a large and costly fire is the time between ignition and first attack response,” he said.

“The sparse geographic distribution of populations in Australia also mean that fires may not be detected in a sufficient time to deploy resources before they reach a size that makes them uncontrollable, particularly without significant investment in remote detection resources.

“Investing in early detection has the potential to help meet these not-insignificant challenges.”