New Fire Danger Rating System

Fire danger ratings describe the potential level of danger should a bushfire start. They are important because they provide people with information so that they can take action to protect themselves and others from the potentially dangerous impacts of bushfires.

The Australian Fire Danger Rating System (AFDRS) Program is redesigning the forecasting of fire danger in Australia. The AFDRS is a project of national significance being developed collaboratively by state, territory, and the Commonwealth government. It aims to improve public safety and reduce the impacts of bushfires by:

  • Improving the scientific accuracy behind fire danger predictions.
  • Improving the way that fire danger is communicated.
  • Providing government and industry with better decision-making tools.
  • Reducing the costs associated with bushfire impacts.

The new Australian Fire Danger Rating System will start on 1 September. It has four levels of fire danger – Moderate, High, Extreme and Catastrophic. There are new action statements for each level, to give the community clearer information about what to do. 

In the lead-up to the new system, roadside signs will be progressively replaced.

A community awareness campaign is also being developed to help educate the public about the changes.

Download the new AFDRS matrix and messaging

The way that the Australian fire danger rating system will affect you to some extent depends on your role.

For the community it is important to be aware of the changes, where to access information such as state government emergency services websites, and what action to take in relation to each fire danger rating level.

For fire and land management agencies and fire management professionals, the new system offers improved tools to support operations and decision making. An important difference is that the Fire Behaviours Index will be used instead of fire danger ratings for most decision making purposes.

What is the Fire Behaviour Index (FBI)?

The Fire Behaviour Index (FBI) provides a scale of potential fire behaviour based on fuel and weather conditions. Like a temperature scale, it consists of small increments, however, these increments describe the potential fire danger (should a fire start). However, unlike temperature, the FBI does not describe a single physical property. Instead, it is a high-level concept that unites a range of potential fire behaviour characteristics predicted from fire behaviour models for particular vegetation types. These include: 

  • Fire intensity; 
  • Flame height; 
  • Rate of spread; and 
  • Spotting potential. 

Because the FBI has a high level of precision, it can be used by government agencies, industry, primary producers and others that work with vegetative fires to support decision making in relation to issues such as:

  • When it is safe to prescribed burn; 
  • Which bushfire suppression strategies are safe or effective; 
  • When it is not safe to use equipment that may spark a fire; and 
  • When Total Fire Bans may be required.