The Fire Centre at the University of Tasmania is the first organisation of its kind in Tasmania
We link wildfire researchers and projects from around the state to solve the most pressing problems
A Global Problem with Local Solutions
In 2018, 87 people perished in the Camp Fire in California. In Europe, almost 200 people were killed in fires in Portugal, Spain, and Greece in 2017 and 2018. The Black Saturday fires in Victoria in 2009 killed over 170 people. It seems deadly fire disasters are on the rise globally. While the global community struggles with the question of how to deal with this problem, local communities are proactively engineering solutions to protect themselves. A Tasmanian council implements novel fuel-treatment techniques to protect its most vulnerable suburbs. A Portuguese village removes all of the highly-flammable eucalypts from around it’s outskirts and creates a fire-safe zone. Around the world local communities are creating bottom-up solutions for local wildfire problems, but they need support from the research community.
Driving Collaboration in Tasmanian Fire Research
The Fire Centre Research Hub was founded at the University of Tasmania in late 2018 using internal seed grants from the university. The Pyrogeography Lab at UTAS hosted a number of workshops to gauge interest in a fire research centre. They found that the number of researchers at the University studying fire-related topics was much higher than previously realised. Futhermore, it became apparent that there was a strong appetite among practitioners for a centralised, trans-disciplinary research hub in Tasmania that could support all the research needs of the Tasmanian community. The Fire Centre Research Hub was founded based on that need, as a virtual centre to bring together researchers from around Tasmania and be a contact point for the research needs of fire practitioners both in Tasmania and around the world.
Science, Community, Culture
At its core, wildfire is a human problem. Indigenous peoples across the earth managed wildlands with fire for millennia. Twentieth-century fire-suppression policy has lead to the growth of massive amounts of flammable vegetation in North America. Modern humans pump CO2 into the atmosphere, changing the drought patterns that allow that vegetation to burn. We build houses in these highly-flammable wildlands. The insurance industry and government regulators dictate how to best protect these houses. Nearly all the fire on earth has been ignited by humans. Wildfire science has been traditionally dominated by firefighters, physicists, mathematicians, and forest ecologists. These professions still have a fundamental role in wildfire research, however to solve the global fire problem, we need so many more perspectives. We need indigenous knowledge to understand how people coexisted with fire for millennia before the modern era. We need meteorologists to understand when weather conditions will drive catastrophic fires. We need legal experts to understand how regulations and legal liability can drive preventative measures. We need sociologists to understand how humans can prepare for and cope with devastating wildfires. We need communities to make their own collective decisions about how they want to live with wildfire. The Fire Centre exists as a resource for such diverse perspectives to come together and empower local communities to develop their own solutions to coexist with wildfire.