Leading bushfire researchers converge on Leura

Australia's top bushfire researchers will speak at the Australian Bushfire Building Conference in Leura this week.

CSIRO researcher Justin Leonard from Melbourne will virtually present research into building performance during the 2019/20 bushfires.

He has dedicated his 26-year research career to understanding how bushfire risk to life and infrastructure can be managed. This research combines knowledge from bushfire exposure experiments with post-bushfire survey investigations and computer modelling of bushfire interactions with buildings.

Mr Leonard said their research was based on "the learnings from the NSW bushfire losses."

"We're looking at whether houses built to regulation do better than before regulations were in place and by how much better," he said.

"Consistently across all the fires there is a consistent signal that regulations improve the prospects [of houses surviving].

Their research found older houses tended to not fare as well. This was partly due to the homes deteriorating over time and falling into a state of disrepair, and whether vegetation had been cleared back from around the home.

There were many ways that a house could burn down, and it was best to address a home's "weakest links", Mr Leonard said.

The conference is being held in a reduced capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions, at the Fairmont Resort in Leura on September 17 and 18.

Hosted by the Blue Mountains Economic Enterprise (BMEE), the conference will focus on lessons learned from the summer bushfires.

The program includes presentations from NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Rob Rogers, and Shane Fitzsimmons, past commissioner and now inaugural Commissioner for Resilience NSW.

Conference delegates will also have the opportunity to hear from leading bushfire researchers who will cover topics related to bushfire design for BAL homes, bushfire bunker design, simulated bushfire testing, and the use of new technology for bushfire preparation.

BMEE chairman Don Luscombe said the conference was an annual opportunity for industry professionals to get up to speed with the latest research, regulations, innovations and technological advances.

"Following a devastating summer bushfire season, a Royal Commission, and future predictions of increased fire weather, there will be plenty to discuss and explore in the bushfire building space," Mr Luscombe said.

"The conference provides a great opportunity to hear and learn from bushfire building experts who will discuss bushfire ecology, planning controls, building regulations, bushfire design and construction, along with bushfire resilience and recovery."

ABC Radio Sydney's Weekend host Simon Marnie is the MC on the Thursday. The conference on Thursday morning, including the Q&A session, will be live streamed through ABC Radio Sydney's Facebook page.

The entire event will also be available virtually through an OnAIR Portal. To view the program and register visit: https://bushfireconference.com.au/2020-program/.


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