Life and house loss database description and analysis: final report

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Blanchi, Raphaele; Leonard, Justin; Haynes, Katharine; Opie, Kimberley; James, Melissa; Kilinc, Musa; de Oliveira, Felipe D.; van den Honert, Rob



90 p

This report describes the development and analysis of a dataset containing bushfire related life loss in Australia over the past 110 years (1901-2011). Over this time period 260 bushfires have been associated with a total of 825 known civilian and firefighter fatalities. This dataset encompasses the spatial, temporal and localised context in which the fatalities have occurred (known as the Attorney General Department's (AGD) NFDRS Life Loss database). This database was developed to provide a firm evidence base for which an Australian National fire danger rating system can be developed. It represents the most complete set of known bushfire fatalities and the most comprehensive spatially and temporally correlated dataset of these fatalities ever assembled. The analysis phase of the project has focused on the characterisation of the relationship between fatal exposure location, fire arrival, weather conditions (using the McArthur Forest Fire Danger Index (FFDI) and its individual components), proximity to fuel, and fatality activity and decision making leading up to the death. From this analysis it is evident that fire weather and proximity to forest are very strong contextual drivers for defining the potential for fatalities to occur. With over 78% of all fatalities occurring within 30m of the forest and 50% of all fatalities occurring on days xceeding an FFDI of 100 (the current threshold for declaring a day as 'catastrophic'). In fact 15 major bushfire events involving 9 or more fatalities per event represent 51% of all civilian fatalities. These bushfire events occurred during 10 fire days. The total number of fatalities during those days account for 65% of all civilian fatalities. The analysis shows that the losses are dominated by a several iconic events that have occurred under very severe weather conditions (such as Ash Wednesday 1983, Black Saturday 2009) The location of fatal exposure provides a useful context with 58% occurring out in the open and 28% occurring inside structures, of particular interest is the fact that for bushfires occurring under weather conditions exceeding an FFDI value of 100, fatalities within structures represents over 75% of all fatalities. These are associated with people dying while attempting to shelter mainly in their place of residence. Conversely lower values of FFDI are associated with people caught outside who are engaged in defending. The Civilian fatalities also tended to occur close to or within their place of residence, with 82% of the 'in structure' fatalities being in their place of residence, and 61% of other fatalities were with 100m of their residence. Of the fatalities which occurred inside structure in a location that was specifically known, 41% occurred in rooms with reduced visibility to the outside conditions. The gender analysis shows a higher proportion of males dying in earlier fires when compared to more recent fires. The gender role could demonstrate an evolution of behaviour in the different roles of men and women over the century. A greater number of male civilian fatalities have occurred in open air than in any other location, particularly earlier in the century. A greater proportion of female fatalities have occurred inside structures. Preliminary work has been performed to explore the use of a weather based life lose index which has demonstrate significantly strong correlations than using FFDI, hence with some additional effort in this are a new index can be derived. This index could either be based in weather parameters alone or be a combination of weather and spatial variables.


Environmental Impact Assessment

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This report has been placed on the CSIRO repository and may be made available to persons outside of CSIRO for non commercial purposes, in its entirety and without deletion of disclaimers and copyright information.


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Blanchi, Raphaele; Leonard, Justin; Haynes, Katharine; Opie, Kimberley; James, Melissa; Kilinc, Musa; de Oliveira, Felipe D.; van den Honert, Rob. Life and house loss database description and analysis: final report. CSIRO; 2012. csiro:EP129645.

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