Drivers of long-distance spotting during wildfires in south-eastern Australia
© 2020 IAWF. We analysed the influence of wildfire area, topography, fuel, surface weather and upper-level weather conditions on long-distance spotting during wildfires. The analysis was based on a large dataset of 338 observations, from aircraft-acquired optical line scans, of spotting wildfires in south-east Australia between 2002 and 2018. Source fire area (a measure of fire activity) was the most important predictor of maximum spotting distance and the number of long-distance spot fires produced (i.e. >500 m from a source fire). Weather (surface and upper-level), vegetation and topographic variables had important secondary effects. Spotting distance and number of long-distance spot fires increased strongly with increasing source fire area, particularly under strong winds and in areas containing dense forest and steep slopes. General vegetation descriptors better predicted spotting compared with bark hazard and presence variables, suggesting systems that measure and map bark spotting potential need improvement. The results from this study have important implications for the development of predictive spotting and wildfire behaviour models.