ESA finalist for Eureka Prize

Released 04/09/2013

Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Simon Corbell, today congratulated the Specialist Risk Analyst from the ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) and his colleague from the University of New South Wales (UNSW), who are finalists for a 2013 Australian Museum Eureka Prize.

The winners of the Eureka Prizes will be announced tonight at a special function in Sydney.

"Rick McRae from the ESA and Dr Jason Sharples from the UNSW have been nominated as Eureka Prize finalists for their groundbreaking research into the causes and effects of catastrophic firestorms," Mr Corbell said.

"Their nomination is for the most extensive research project into Australian extreme bushfire dynamics ever undertaken. The work has delivered knowledge on a previously undocumented form of fire spread. Known as fire channelling, it has been shown to have been involved in past damaging bushfire events in Australia and overseas."

Fire channelling occurs in rugged landscapes and results from a form of wind and terrain interaction on the leeward (downwind) side of ridges. This allows a fire to spread sideways along the lee slope as well as downwind. This causes extreme fire behaviour and what is called 'violent pyro-convection', which results in a fire thunderstorm.

"Rick and Jason's work is based on field data collected during extreme wildfires, especially the 2003 ACT fires, and has been backed up by laboratory tests and by numerical modelling," Mr Corbell said.

"The research also provided the world's first confirmed case of a fire tornado which was documented following the 18 January 2003 Canberra fires. It impacted on the suburbs of Chapman and Kambah."

Rick and Jason's entry in the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage Eureka Prize for Environmental Research is placed in the Research and Innovation category.

The Australia Museum Eureka Prizes recognise outstanding achievements in Australian science and science communication, and are presented annually.


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Section: Simon Corbell, MLA | Media Releases

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