Volunteers helping cure grassfire risk

Victorians are being given the opportunity to become ‘citizen scientists’ and help provide CFA with critical information about the state’s fire risk.

A new online module provides simple information about grassland curing – the rate that grass dries out – and how CFA uses that information in fire analysis.

The new course has been launched during a season with high risk of grassfires, after significant rainfall last year led to exceptional grass growth across the state.

Barmah resident and CFA volunteer John Jackson has been helping with the grassland curing program for almost ten years, and said updated training is fantastic for new and existing volunteer observers.

“I’ve gone through the new course and it’s excellent,” said John.

“It teaches you what you need to become an observer.

“You walk out to a point that you’ve set, have a look at the grass, then use some helpful tools to work out the curing rate.”

CFA remote sensing analyst Danielle Wright said those ground observations are combined with satellite images to produce a map of Victoria showing how dry the grass is across the state.

“Green grass is 0% cured, while grass that is totally dried out is 100% cured, and those numbers can help calculate the grassland fire danger index.

“It’s very important for identifying fire danger ratings, and feeds into fire behaviour modelling.”

CFA Grassland Curing Map 8 Feb

Danielle said observers are crucial, as the satellite model can sometimes over-estimate or under-estimate curing.

“A paddock might have tall, dry grass but after some heavy rainfall there could be green shoots coming through which wouldn’t affect fire behaviour, but would still be picked up by the satellite.

CFA has been recording grassland curing measurements for decades in Victoria and has been delivering grassland curing maps for other states since 2015.

Project coordinator Angela Gardner said it’s hoped the new training model will encourage new volunteer observers to participate.

“We have about 125 active observers at the moment, and while a lot of people who do it are CFA members, it’s open to anyone from the public.”

“People can actually do the course for their own awareness but if you’d like to sign up as an observer at the end, we’ll send a more detailed booklet to support you. People can register for the Grassland Curing Observer course at learninghub.cfa.vic.gov.au