Experts start fires to learn more about defeating bush blazes

Source: 1News

Researchers have been deliberately lighting fires in the South Island's Mackenzie country this week in a push to learn more about the growing risk associated with wilding pines.

The wild trees are taking over large areas of New Zealand's high country, posing a number of challenges for firefighters.

A fire scientist at the Crown Research Institute Scion says they are collecting data on how fast fires spread, how intensely they burn and how big the flames are under different weather conditions.

There's no definitive NZ-based data on the pines' behaviour during fire and Grant Pearce says the research will give fire managers a better idea of what they can expect when wild fires do occur.

The pines currently infest around seven per cent of the country and their numbers could triple in the next 20 years if left unchecked.

Spraying is now a common control method, leaving behind large areas of tinder dry dead wood which allows the researchers to see how they burn compared to unsprayed trees which have much higher fuel loads, ignite more easily and result in more extreme fire behaviour.

Monitoring devices are dispersed throughout the burn area to record data on factors such as how quickly fire moves and temperatures which sometimes near 1000 degrees centigrade.

The Fire Service is on hand to manage and dampen down the blaze while also testing some of their new equipment, including a drone.

The operation is a collaborative project between Scion, the University of Canterbury and the Fire Service.

Researchers are now collating the data, before sharing their findings with the agencies that have to deal with the real thing.