Technology plays a role in fire prevention

May 13, 2024 BY

A total of 33 fire events were averted this fire season in the Green Triangle due to the sophisticated work of Australia’s largest network of smoke detection cameras with plans progressing to expand the infrastructure to cover more blackspot areas for future seasons.

The Green Triangle Fire Alliance’s (GTFA) network of 14 cameras, which provide a 360-degree scan of the landscape using AI technology, delivered 24-hour seven day a week observation across 1.3 million hectares of landscape, covering 10 local government areas.

Operated by AI specialists Pano AI Pty Ltd, the cameras acted as the first point of detection before the human eye on several occasions and positively identified 24 planned fuel reduction burns for a total of 57 detections for the season. This was in addition to the detection of thousands of private permit burns late in the season.

South west Victoria’s seven cameras, which are located at Dergholm, Lake Mundi, Digby, Dartmoor, Rennick, Nelson and Hicks Hill, near Macarthur, successfully captured 14 unplanned blazes. South Australia’s seven cameras are located in Mt Benson, near Robe, Elad Road and The Bluff in Wattle Range, Furner, Mt Burr, and Carpenters Rocks.

Green Triangle hardwood plantation companies ABP (Australian Bluegum Plantations), SFM and PF Olsen are among nine GTFA member companies who invested in the new technology to provide rapid detection and real-time intelligence to inform on-the-ground decision making for optimal use of fire resources.

SFM chief operating officer Mike Lawson said the cameras had brought a new level of sophistication to fire management since being installed three years ago, supporting greater protection of the plantation estate, surrounding landholders, the broader environment and community.

“These cameras have been instrumental in strengthening fire management across south-west Victoria and importantly we know that year on year these results are going to continue to improve as the AI becomes more sophisticated,” Mr Lawson said.

“The cameras have been installed in blackspot zones in CFA (Country Fire Authority) Regions 4, 5 and 17 that were not well covered by traditional fire towers. The results, which are fed live to forest managers and fire authority digital devices, have been impressive with the cameras detecting fire up to six minutes before another detection source.”

PF Olsen GT regional manager Andrew Matheson said the camera data, which was identifying fire up to 30km away, was shared directly to Victorian fire management authorities to support informed decision making and quick firefighting responses.

“Fire detection in the region has been further strengthened by the plantation industry’s subscription to the Ororatech satellite fire detection service which is particularly useful overnight to support identification of overnight lightning strikes and burnt-out vehicles,” Mr Matheson said.

“Matched together, this AI-camera and satellite technology provides an additional layer of coverage to ensure we are protecting our hardwood plantation estate, our agricultural neighbours and the broader community and environment.”

ABP general manager operations Darren Shelden said it was critical to invest in more cameras to support the extensive fire tower network and mitigate the increasing risk of bushfire due to climate change.

“Plantation companies have fully funded all the cameras in south-west Victoria. Four locations have been identified as new camera sites, including CFA towers at Mount Rouse and Mount Dundas and new sites at Tyrendarra and Nareen,” Mr Shelden said.

“We are seeking to attract government support for this broader roll-out which will take the camera network to 11 in south-west Victoria.”

Green Triangle Fire Alliance manager Anthony Walsh said the alliance looked forward to continuing strong collaboration with CFA and Forest Fire Management Victoria to best use the new technology.

“The Green Triangle Fire Alliance is proud of these excellent results and the outstanding effort of our more than 300 trained forest firefighters who work tirelessly alongside state agencies to keep our assets and broader region safe,” Mr Walsh said.

“Our industry helicopter and new investment in floating collar tanks to supply water in areas with limited surface water have further increased the level of aerial firefighting capacity in the region, mitigating the risk of a large fire spreading.”