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Council Fire Trail Management

Jul 2024

See how the pristine coastal City of Moreton Bay applies the latest technology to manage its fire trails in preparation for disaster season.

Jul 2024

Over the 11 years he’s worked at the City of Moreton Bay in Queensland, Fire Management Officer Wayne Simpson has used various mapping programmes for fire management planning, including the city’s own platform Fire Management app, FireMapper.  
The app consolidates multiple basemaps, including Nearmap aerial imagery, and forms the basis of the city team’s fire management planning each year. 

City of Moreton Bay Mayor Peter Flannery said the use of innovative technology is a must for Council’s disaster preparedness and management. 

“Council knows just how critical it is to have up to date and detailed information. Not only does this help enhance our already extensive knowledge of local areas and risk factors when it comes to land management, but it also comes to the fore during actual disasters.”

Peter Flannery, Mayor, City of Moreton Bay
Following nearly four years of consistent heavy rain and flooding, the last few fire seasons have challenged fire management teams across the board.  
Adam Nicholas, Fire Management Coordinator for the City of Moreton Bay explains: “The conditions compress what is called the ‘duff layer’ or the ground fuel – almost like a set of compressed heat bricks sitting on the ground – covered with a bit of vegetation growth from the heavy rain.”   
With a high-resolution view from Nearmap, the team can see greater detail and track changes through time, to more accurately understand the effectiveness of its fire management burns, with a year by year view.  
The ability to see current and historical aerial imagery helps the team plan for current conditions.  
“We do multiple burns, sometimes close to 30 throughout the year,” said Wayne Simpson.  
When undertaking burns in smaller, easily accessible suburban areas, the team can physically inspect the site on-foot afterwards. But for larger fire management areas, potentially covering hundreds of hectares in inaccessible bushland, pre- and post-burn management is more challenging. 
“It’s a lot quicker and easier to look from an aerial view to see where the fires carried through, and track where the impact has been more intense in some areas, due to factors such as vegetation, geographical features, and moisture levels,” said Wayne Simpson.  
To demonstrate this, Wayne showed an area in the City of Moreton Bay mapping platform.  
“This is a site that we burnt 10 years ago, and it’s coming up for renewal to be burned again this year – you can see internally areas where it has burnt really hot, and which area didn’t really burn at all because it was wetter.” 
Fri Jun 06 2014
Mon Jul 07 2014
Planned burn, Elimbah QLD

Pre-and post-burn comparison

Being able to track and monitor change over time gives the team an advantage to handle complaints and planning applications with accuracy and transparency.  
Adam and Wayne are part of the City of Moreton Bay team that manages bush fire trails used by fire appliances. Nearmap imagery within FireMapper and in MapBrowser helps them map, measure and verify trails with a greater degree clarity. 
Viewing the outline of fire trails over time – with the ability to import KML files into Nearmap MapBrowser – also helps create a better understanding of potential access points or connecting trails
“It’s a lot easier and quicker to do that investigative work from the desktop than it is to go out and walk a mountainside,” said Wayne. 
For fire trails that need to be extended, rerouted or linked to other trails, Nearmap aerial imagery along with elevation modelling (DSM/DTM) helps the team understand the location, slope and angle of the land, reducing the incidence of error that could lead to potentially expensive reworks. The image below shows the elevation profile for a section of fire trail in Armstrong Creek, Moreton Bay.
To see through vegetation and identify historical tracks, trails and logging roads, the City of Moreton Bay team will sometimes also use LiDAR and satellite imagery. Where Nearmap excels is by providing the ability to see and track changes across time, which gives the team a better understanding of burn areas and their priority.  
“Where the vegetation might have changed – maybe a new pest species has gotten in there? – we can see that from an aerial perspective,” said Adam Nicholas.  
Part of the team’s remit is to keep a lookout for areas of historical interest, such as vintage mills and World War II structures hidden in the landscape. This includes identifying and protecting cultural heritage sites.   
One site of significance to traditional owners is near Bribie Island, where traditional fish traps are visible in the shallow water just offshore. Some of the traps can be seen from land at low tide, but their scale and engineering only becomes evident from an aerial perspective. 
Whenever the team spots potentially significant sites in aerial imagery, such as the indigenous fish traps shown above, they will share information so cultural heritage officers can check the site in person. While broader knowledge of these sites is protected to ensure their ongoing preservation, ongoing inspection and monitoring can be completed easily and non-intrusively with Nearmap imagery. 
These aerial insights gave the team a better indication of the trail location, and the sweep-width required on each side, for large vehicle clearance.  
To manage and moderate project costs, the City of Moreton Bay can rely on precise and accurate plans to safely deliver more cost-effective exercises. 
Often due to cultural and environmental considerations, heavy vegetation growth, or safety reasons, teams need to remain within the perimeter of fire trails without entering the surrounding area.  
Using Nearmap imagery, the team can see exactly where they need to be, while simultaneously monitoring what’s happening in the inaccessible surrounding areas, helping better predict and understand likely fire behaviour. 

“The intelligence we can gather before we arrive is critically important.”

Adam Nicholas, Fire Management Coordinator, City of Moreton Bay
Monitoring landscape change is as important as monitoring the built environment. With regular Nearmap updates, the City of Moreton Bay can monitor and measure environmental shifts – like the changes at the northern end of Bribie Island, where sand build-up has closed the channel, linking the tip of Bribie Island to Caloundra.
Sun Sep 18 2022
Sun Jun 16 2024
Bribie Island, QLD

Left: Sep 2022 | Right: Jun 2024

Facing another challenging fire season, the City of Moreton Bay is better equipped to complete critical year-round maintenance tasks, across wide areas, in less time, with greater accuracy and transparency. 
As cities across Australia continue to grow and develop, citizens in regions like Queensland’s pristine Moreton Bay benefit from councils that embrace and apply progressive technology to help plan and commit to long-term sustainability and liveability targets. 

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