What is Phoenix?
Phoenix Rapid Fire (Phoenix) is a research tool developed by the University of Melbourne (Kevin Tolhurst and Derek Chong). It has been used by fire agencies for both incident prediction (State Control Centre) and as a key tool for bushfire risk assessment and strategic bushfire management planning.
The following video explains what Phoenix is:
The following video is a recreation of the Kilmore Black Saturday fire:
All modelling has limitations however Phoenix is a useful tool in analysing landscape scale bushfire risk.
Phoenix can be set to simulate bushfires in different weather conditions and with different fire histories and vegetation accumulation (or fuel loads).
The use of Phoenix is coordinated through an agreement between DELWP, the University of Melbourne and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre.
Phoenix simulation outputs may not reflect actual fire spread. There are several input layers and submodels within Phoenix, each of which needs to be validated. The model is sensitive to minor differences or shifts in weather, fuel accumulation and other factors.
Using Phoenix we can model the risk of bushfire to localities within the Latrobe Valley based on fires that have occurred historically and burning that is scheduled for the future.
Identifying the maximum level of bushfire risk possible is based on modelling how many houses could be impacted in a scenario where fuels are at their maximum and there is no history of fire. Comparing the impact of various fuel reduction scenarios with this maximum shows how much fuel treatments have reduced the risk and hence what is the risk remaining – which is known as the residual risk.
The following graphics help explain this concept:
Using this approach we can identify areas of high risk in the landscape.
Read an interview with Kevin Tolhurst at the University of Melbourne site, in which he goes into detail about how Phoenix Rapid Fire was developed.