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Australia Burning To Learn Better Bushfire Science

Australia was crying out for sound science on bushfire management to help it fight fires and curb the debate over hazard reduction burning, fire experts were told yesterday.

Speaking at the third international wildland fire conference in Sydney, the Federal Science Minister, Peter McGauran, said there was a big split on bushfires, and people were now looking to scientists to "break the deadlock" between pro-burning and anti-burning special interest groups.

... Bob Alexander, of NSW Fire Brigades, told the conference that a survey of communities affected by the 2001-02 Black Christmas fires showed most residents had a poor understanding of the risk posed by bushfires and how to preserve their lives and property.

This is encouraging in a way, since I'm planning on researching Australian bushfire for my dissertation. Of course, ceteris paribus things would be better if people knew everything they needed to know about bushfire already. But if there are going to be gaps in our knowledge, I can't complain if those gaps are ones I'm interested in helping to fill. The article focuses mostly on the need for biophysical sorts of research about the best frequency of burns and so forth. But if people are as ill-informed about fire as the study cited in the third paragraph I quoted suggests, there may be plenty of room for what I'd like to do -- a study of the social mechanisms for how people acquire, process, and transmit information about fire and fire safety.


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