Reading Notes:

Bushfire Behaviour

The purpose of the book is to raise the level and quality of bushfire behaviour knowledge in both the fire and emergency services community and the public so that it can be applied to eliminate, yes eliminate, bushfire damage on a property or in a neighbourhood.
Why is such a book necessary? I see evidence of deteoriating scientific scholarship by eminent scientists on the two continents that lead the bushfire field, Australia and the US. (This is of concern per se, but even more worrying is that their output has been accepted uncritically.) I see evidence that Fire Agencies still fail to stop preventable damage and distress in bushfire prone communities in severe bushfires, despite over 40 years of scientific study. I see evidence that the public continues to make decisions in bushfire situations based on inadequate knowledge.
This book is based on the philosophy that bushfire behaviour is explainable and predictable and that this knowledge can be used to defend ourselves against damage by all bushfires, especially severe ones. People should not accept that losses are inevitable in an extreme bushfire. We know enough now to plan and mount a successful defence.
Superior knowledge also has an economic consequence. Characteristically, when faced with damage and distress after extreme bushfires, the response by politicians is acquisition of bigger and better equipment. But this neither solves nor reduces the damage problem. A much more effective solution is acquisition and application of the right knowledge by the public. This is much more cost effective because it requires lower capital investment and results in lower insurance payouts and lower community damage.
This book is 'work in progress'. It says - this is where we are now, this is what we know now and this is what we need to know. It therefore provides a solid basis for future inquiry.
The book brings its readers to a common level of knowledge and understanding, which is the starting point for advanced study in the science, creative enquiry and solutions.

About the Author

Denis O'Bryan graduated from Creswick School of Forestry and Melbourne University and began work as a forester when forestry and fire protection were inseparable twins. As a result, he has had over 20 years experience working in the Victorian Government in fire protection at all levels, including hands-on fire fighting, fire crew leadership, pre season planning and preparation, training, state-wide fire protection planning and coordination of state-wide fire fighting operations.
After leaving the government, he has trained large numbers of volunteer and professional fire fighters and tertiary students in basic and advanced fire courses. He has authored a two-level Plantation Fire Fighter training program and manual and an accredited basic fire fighting awareness training program. Denis has consulted to the Victorian and the Federal Governments in fire policy and planning issues, and has worked interstate. He has a good understanding of the limitations and strengths of both professional and volunteer fire fighting.
Denis is Director of Red Eagle, a bushfire protection advisory service that provides fire risk training, assessment, planning and management expertise to improve the community's ability to protect itself in a cost effective way. The website is

Questions Raised by the Book


The first part of the search for answers is to articulate every key concept relevant to our understanding of bushfire behaviour and what influences it. We begin with the simple question – what is a flame and what causes ignition. The journey reveals that terminology and concepts need to be articulated and clarified. The concepts of energy and heat are clarified and Byram's Intensity can be seen in perspective.
The causes of damage are articulated and examined because this is the source of community concern and the source of solutions to potential damage.
The bushfire behaviour framework is applied to all fuel types. The integration process allows similarities and differences to be explored and again, it allows terminology, concepts and principles to be clarified. Gaps in the framework are filled with either evidence or hypotheses that will be able to be tested in due course. The outcome is a very clear picture of the elements of bushfire behaviour and the influences thereon. The key influences and their consequences are presented systematically in one document. Some of the concepts are relevant, some are not. Some are accurate, some are not.

Table Of Contents


Part 1 - Back to Basics

01 - Flame Behaviour and Spread Mechanisms
02 - Energy Output from a Bushfire
03 - In What Form Is Energy Released?
04 - Byram's Fire Intensity
05 - How Bushfires Cause Physical Damage
06 - Influences on Bushfire Behaviour - Fuel
07 - Influences on Bushfire Behaviour - Weather
08 - Influences on Bushfire Behaviour - Topography
09 - Bushfire Behaviour - The Head Fire

Part 2 - Simple Bushfire Behaviour - Single Layer

10 - Bushfire Behaviour - Grass Fires
11 - Bushfire Behaviour - Spinifex and Other Arid Grasslands
12 - Bushfire Behaviour - Eucalypt Litter Fires
13 - Bushfire Behaviour - Pine Litter Fires
14 - Bushfire Behaviour - Heath Fires

Part 3 - 3-D Bushfire Behaviour - Multiple Layers

15 - Fire Behaviour in Multi-layer Fuels
16 - Bushfire Behaviour - Mallee Fires
17 - Bushfire Behaviour - 3-D Pine Plantation Fires
18 - Bushfire Behaviour - 3-D Eucalypt Forest Fires

Part 4 - Foundations And Applications

19 - Foundations of the Science of Bushfire Behaviour
20 - The Science of Bushfire Behaviour Prediction
21 - Aspects of International Crown Fire Experiments

Special Supplement - Wood Ignition and Combustion

Commonly Used Symbols And Abbreviations