The North Australian Fire Information website,
developed by Ecobyte Systems, Tropical Savannas CRC and northern
fire managers, has now been in use for some months. Savanna Links
speaks to Peter Thompson, (pictured left)
coordinator for the Cape York Sustainable Fire
Management Project, on how the site has been received.
The website is being used throughout northern
Australia. In Arnhem Land Andrew Edwards, Dean Yibarbuk and Otto
Campion look at maps printed out from the website.
Photo: Jeremy Russell-Smith
What has been the impact of the North Australian Fire
Information [NAFI] site?
The uptake by the landowners has been very good. We’re
getting positive feedback from all of the people that we’re
talking to—I don’t think there’s too many that
have had any negative comments at all, and they’re certainly
looking forward to its future development.
We were using a website of our own and manually uploading
information to that website and getting it to people that way.
It’s certainly much more efficient for us to supply
information through the NAFI process and it’s a much better
What are people using the site for mostly?
To check on the location of fires of interest to them; knowing
where that fire is, whether it’s a threat to them and the
time frame for it to become a threat. Once it is established as a
threat, is the fire moving faster in one particular direction than
the other? Where will it come to first, are there things in place
that can be used as fire breaks—like for example burnt
country, or whether it is being held on a particular side of a
river or creek or road—that seems to be of prime importance
to them, and particularly if the fire does jump across that barrier
then they want to know about it as quickly as possible.
I understand it’s already saved a homestead?
Yes it certainly has. That particular instance was a property
that’s not always manned. The manager was 200 km away and
[after several calls tracking him down] I let him know there was a
fire in close proximity and looked to be heading towards the
homestead. He beat a hasty retreat back home and burnt around the
property to save it.
Whether or not the house or property would have been actually
burnt is not certain, but there certainly was a risk. The thing is
that people are moving around the country all the time and
basically the site gives people a lot better chance of getting back
to their homesteads and dealing with the issues—they could be
away for a week and suddenly find that it’s all burnt.
What if you haven’t used the Internet much
People that have been less exposed to computer programs and the
Internet find it quite easy to use as well. I just returned from a
trip through Mount Isa showing a couple of people [how to do it]
and they were able to very quickly pick it up and work out what the
information was meaning to them.
What is the improvement they’d most like to
Access to the actual satellite images themselves—a picture
is worth a thousand words really. The hotspot information as it is,
is indicating where the approximate locations of the fires are, but
it doesn’t show the extent of the fires at any one time. What
they are interested in is not only where the hotspots are, but what
has been burnt to that minute or the latest available image.
So the hotspots won’t necessarily pick up all fires
that are burning?
They don't, often the hotspot information picks up only part of
the fire, but the actual image shows the whole extent of the fire.
This may be because a satellite has dropped out.
Do you think that this web-based technology generally could
have a broader impact on land management in northern
I think that’s almost a certainty. It is a matter of
providing the right information at the right scale and at the right
cost and people will use it. I think there’s been an enormous
amount of interest to date, and a lot of people are looking at
opportunities beyond fire, and particularly things like ground
cover and biomass and those issues that could have a lot to do with
the economics of cattle operations, or any operations. —
Interview Peter Jacklyn
North Australia Fire Information
NAFI: Up-to-date maps and data on fires across northern Australia. Includes hotspots and fire-scars.