2009 Bushfire Research Task Force

2009 Bushfire Research Task Force

18 Feb 2009

A group of researchers from various state fire agencies and research organisations has been assembled by the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre – of which La Trobe University is a member – to look at key issues arising out of the February 2009 Victorian bushfires.  

A fire truckThe purpose of the research is to provide Australian fire and land management agencies with an independent analysis of the factors surrounding these series of fires. This knowledge will be shared across Australia and internationally and will assist with the Royal Commission and other investigations and inquiries.

The research is considering which fires were ordinary or extreme and which were extraordinary; that is, exhibiting fire behaviour outside known experience. Three research teams are looking at the impacts of a selected sample of fires in order to gain a broader understanding of all the fires.

The research teams are made up of people with a mix of expertise in building analysis, human behaviour, community education, bushfire behaviour, fire weather, and fire investigation.

La Trobe University senior lecturer in the School of Psychological Science, Dr Mary Omodei, is leader of the University’s social sciences projects in the Bushfire CRC.  She and her colleagues study how decisions are made in the attempt to predict and to control fires.  Another aspect of their research deals with understanding individual, community, and demographic factors which impact on recruiting and retaining volunteer fire fighters. 

Related press release: Decision making in the face of fire


The Bushfire CRC has conducted research on behalf of fire and land management agencies after tragic fires in Canberra in 2003 and on the Eyre Peninsula in 2005.

Research teams are looking at the following areas

1. Fire Behaviour
The focus is on strategic fire behaviour – how the fires moved across different landscapes, different vegetation, and under variable weather conditions.

2. Human Behaviour and Community Safety Issues  
This area will look into:

  • Behaviour and decision making by residents
  • Community responses to bushfire warnings messages
  • The implications of these events on policy.


3. Building (Infrastructure) and Planning Issues
Researchers are looking at:

  • Patterns of loss and patterns of survival of buildings and structures
  • The notion of defendable space
  • Planning and building controls and their impact on patterns of building losses

For more information contact the Bushfire CRC, Tel: 03 9412 9600. Enquiries about La Trobe’s social sciences projects to Dr Mary Omodei, Tel: 03 9479 3704

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