Published: Kath Gannaway, Rangers Trader Mail

A BUSHFIRE detection system being trialed in Victoria would need to be part of an integrated system of warning and communication
technologies. if it is adopted as part of Australia’s future bushfire defence.

McEwen MP Fran Bailey has championed the Australian-made FireWatch system. which she studied in Germany last year following the Black Saturday bushfires.

She then successfully lobbied the Federal Government to trial the system, which has been on a four-month trial in the Otways and will finish in April.

Last week, Ms. Bailey hosted a forum in Healesville to introduce the system to key stakeholders including CFA officials and volunteers, representatives of local government and others.

FireWatch Managing Director Mr. David Goodrich, who introduced the system, said it was not a new invention but one that could save lives, property and the environment in Australia’s fire-prone regions.

Mr. Goodrich said the technology used a system of software and strategically placed sensors to detect smoke and provide an early warning system.
Asked whether it would have made a difference on Black Saturday, he was candid.

“I don’t think any system would have made a difference in those conditions. The only thing we can say is it could have detected the smoke earlier, but could anything be done’? I don’t know,” he said.

But he said more than 200 systems have been installed worldwide which were operating or being trialed in countries such as France, Portugal,  Greece, America and Mexico.

Germany has been using the system for eight years and the National Co-ordinator of Forest Fire Surveillance in Germany, provided an insight into the operation of the system that has 178 tower-based FireWatch sensors monitored by 22 control centres.