After more than 18 months preparation, the first of the research burns in gorse scrub fuels have been successfully conducted. The burns are the second phase of experiments to test the convective fire spread theory, following the completion of crop stubble burns in 2018 and 2019.
The project is a collaboration between the Scion Rural Fire Research team, the US Forest Service’s Missoula Fire Lab, San Jose State University and the University of Canterbury’s Geography Dept. The research burns are some of the most instrumented fire experiments conducted, with a huge range of sensors, cameras and drones recording everything from weather conditions and atmospheric turbulence to fire spread, and in-fire flame front dynamics to lidar tracking of smoke.
The gorse burn site is located near Rakaia Gorge, and comprises six 4 ha (200x200m) burn blocks within an area of 80 ha of riverside gorse. The research burn blocks are surrounded by firebreaks, along with buffer blocks which were burnt out in the days prior to research burns commencing.
The first two burn blocks were successfully completed on Monday (2nd March) on downvalley nor’west winds, with the next burns planned for Friday (6th March) likely under upvalley easterly winds.
The research team is extremely grateful for the significant support received from Fire and Emergency New Zealand and the Department of Conservation with the planning and conduct of both the burnouts and research burns, and especially to the volunteer crews that have provided suppression support. These research burns wouldn’t be possible without that support.
The burns also featured on TV3’s Newshub 6pm News.
More information on the burns can be found here, including a series of Q&A’s on why the burns are being conducted and what precautions are being put in place.