University of Wollongong researcher Owen Price has developed a new method for mapping bushfire risk which has the potential to change bushfire prevention strategies worldwide.
The research based on past fire patterns, was recently published online in a special edition of the International Journal of Wildland Fire.
Dr Price, a Senior Research Fellow with UOW's Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfires, said the new method considers ignition hotspots, a place's distance from previous ignition points, the layout of forest in the landscape, time since the last fire, and the weather.
He examined the Hills District on Sydney's urban fringe and the Australian Capital Territory in his study, developing a mapping method that can be applied to any fire-prone area in the world.
"My method uses a statistical model derived from actual fires, you could argue it's closer to reality," Dr Price said.
"It does present a new method that people haven't tried before, there's no reason people can't use it in the US and the Mediterranean where they have big fire problems."
His system is designed to complement simulators, which are currently used in some states to estimate fire risk.
In previous research, Dr Price examined 700 historical fires in the Sydney region, and identified factors that made fires more or less likely to spread. That research paved the way for his most recent work.
"In theory you could use it as a public tool, that sort of information is something the government could be putting up to householders," Dr Price said.
"It won't be far off, where people can look up the current state of risk in their area."
Dr Price said his work has the potential to inform insurance and building industries, and affect town planning and developments.
"To an extent, the RFS can influence where new suburbs are developed and how they're designed, when they have more information like this, they can provide better advice," he said.
"The insurance industry is also interested in this space, they do research of their own."
Dr Price's method is a big help to agencies responsible for managing bushfires, such as the NSW Rural Fire Service.