Australia opens new lab to bolster bushfire resilience

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Australia’s national science agency on Thursday announced that it has opened a new lab to bolster the country’s ability to respond to and recover from bushfires.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) officially opened the National Bushfire Behaviour Research laboratory in Canberra, reports Xinhua news agency.

Researchers at the A$2.1 million facility will be tasked with improving the understanding of how bushfires behave, what makes them worse and the best ways to respond.

“Bushfires are one of Australia’s greatest challenges, and it will take the best science, facilities and partnerships across industry, government and research to help to protect our communities, front-line responders, and environment,” CSIRO Chief Executive Larry Marshall said in a statement.

During the 2019-20 ‘Black Summer’ fires, CSIRO scientists worked side by side with teams on the ground, as they have been for nearly every major fire event since 1950s to better prepare for and manage bushfire seasons that are getting hotter, drier, and longer, he said.

“Challenges this complex cannot be solved by one organisation alone, and we look forward to bringing many partners together at this new National Lab – as we do at all our National Labs facilities across the country – to continue building the resilience and strength of our communities and economy.”

More than 24 million hectares of land burned during the Black Summer fires and 34 people died, prompting a royal commission into Australia’s preparedness for natural disasters.

The new laboratory features a Pyrotron and Vertical Wind Tunnel – apparatus that can be used to replicate real-life bushfires in controlled conditions for detailed analysis.

“The new laboratory will help us better understand fundamental bushfire behavior dynamics, and the factors and interactions that influence the behaviour of bushfires, to support their management by firefighters,” Andrew Sullivan, a CSIRO bushfire expert, said.

“The apparatus in the new laboratory can also help researchers and fire management agencies to better understand and manage fires under future climate conditions.”

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