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Weather stations rolled out across Victoria to help fire response

Life Safety

New weather stations are being rolled out across Victoria, Australia, to help fire agencies better respond to bushfires and carry out planned burns.

The 10 new portable and remote-automated weather stations include seven portable units which are to be used on location to help firefighters understand fire behaviour and measure weather conditions. The remaining three weather stations are to be static and remote automated, permanently situated at Ballan, East Trentham, and Glenburn where there are no permanent weather stations.

The state government provided more than $680,000 to buy and maintain the Country Fire Authority (CFA)’s new weather units. CFA acting chief fire officer Gary Cook said understanding local weather conditions was fundamental to safely and successfully controlling fires.

Mr Cook said the new automated weather stations would provide data where the Bureau of Meteorology’s weather stations are lacking.

“We use the bureau sites, but this allows us to put more into the field and connect back into the bureau with that information, just to give us a better route of what’s happening across the state,” said Cook. The acting chief fire officer explained that the modern technology would be used in conjunction with current portable, handhold tools in vehicles that are also used to monitor weather conditions, and called the technology embedded into these units “world-class”.

Emergency Services Minister Jaclyn Symes said the units would generate more accurate predictions of where a fire might spread and more accurate local data for community warnings.

“We know that the more information that people have about conditions leads to better safety outcomes,” Symes said. To have seven portable devices we can really deploy them around the state on an as-needed basis.”

Heathcote fire brigade captain Carl Watkins said the portable weather stations will prove extremely useful: “We’re 30 kilometres from the nearest weather station so for localised weather it will be terrific for us. It will give us real-time information that’ll help us on the fireground. It will be a lot more accurate — what the weather’s doing, where you are. It’ll change how we deal with fires.”

Heathcote CFA volunteers travel large distances to fight fires, including at least one 200-hectare bushfire a year.