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Study of devastating Australian bushfire reinforces the importance of clearing defensible spaces around homes

A NASA satellite image shows plumes of smoke from Australia's 2009 'Black Saturday' bushfires.

Conclusions bolster similar studies from wildfires in western U.S.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — New research conducted in the aftermath of one of Australia’s most destructive wildfires reinforces conclusions from other studies suggesting that clearing vegetation close to homes is the best way to reduce impacts of severe wildfires.

The research involved 12,000 measurements at 500 houses affected by the Black Saturday fires of February 7, 2009. The fires killed 173 people and injured 414.

“More than any other major wildfire in Australia, Black Saturday provided an unprecedented opportunity to learn about the effects of land management on house loss,” said senior author Dr. Philip Gibbons from the Australian National University.

“Clearing trees and shrubs within 40 meters of houses was the most effective form of fuel reduction on Black Saturday,” Gibbons said. “However, there was less risk to houses from vegetation in planted gardens compared with vegetation in remnant native bushland.” Continue reading

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