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Watching grass dry could save lives
Ever wondered how Victoria’s fire authorities work out what the fire danger is on any particular day or what information influences whether a Total Fire Ban is declared?
CFA relies on a network of fire danger data gatherers to collect vital information which helps determine bushfire danger in communities over summer, and it’s looking for another 200 volunteers to join their ranks.
While satellites and other technology helps, some of the most effective data still comes from volunteer ground observers who report regularly on grass dryness in the lead up to, and through, the fire season.
The information helps Victoria’s fire agencies determine Fire Danger Ratings, Total Fire Bans and when to begin the Fire Danger Period which marks the summer bushfire season in a particular area.
CFA Scientific Officer Jude Alexander said grassland data has been captured in this way since the early 1980s.
“The data helps fire agencies assess the bushfire risk on any given day, prepare for bad days and warn the public,” Ms Alexander said.
“This is key data needed by the fire agencies to help protect the community.”
CFA provides the assistance and training to people who choose to participate in the program.
“Grassland observers make a weekly observation of the state of the grass then report that information via a free-call or by an online log in to CFA,” she said.
Many are CFA volunteers, farmers or community members who regularly monitor their grass and then report information on dryness to CFA, which then analyses the data and factors the results into predictive fire risk warnings.
Chepstowe farmer and CFA volunteer Russel Schmidt collects data from grasslands on his property and said it was an easy way to help protect the community from bushfire.
“I hope it helps firefighters with their job, I’m a firefighter myself,” Mr Schmidt said.
“Being an observer is easy, it takes very little time out of your life – in fact anyone could do it.”
For the first time new training for observers includes a series of short videos which can be watched online or on DVD.