07 July 2021

Report reveals long reach of fire smoke on Perth

  • Study looks at impact of smoke from landscape fires on Perth residents
  • Highlights link between smoke and increased respiratory and cardiovascular -related hospital use
  • Modelling from report will help health system and other stakeholders prepare/plan for future landscape fires
  • Investigation drew data and information from wide range of sources

Department of Health-led research has revealed the far-reach of landscape fire smoke on population health.

The research identifies links between smoke from Western Australian landscape fires and adverse health events experienced by residents across the Perth metropolitan area.

The term “landscape fire” is used to describe both controlled and uncontrolled fires and includes prescribed burns and wild bushfires.

The study is the first of its kind in WA to investigate – and model – the health effects of landscape fires on a large population.

Findings of the year-long investigation are detailed in a new report Earth, Wind and Fire: Using satellite imagery to map the health effects of landscape fire smoke on Perth metropolitan residents.

They reveal a significant correlation between levels of microscopic particles produced by the fires, and respiratory and cardiovascular-related emergency department attendances and hospital admissions.

Using sophisticated geo-spatial technology and satellite images from the Japan Meteorological Agency and US Space Agency NASA, the study tracked the movement and trajectory of smoke plumes and fire danger measures to model population exposure to particles during these events. Exposure was then correlated with both emergency department attendances and hospitalisations.

The project focuses specifically on respiratory and cardiovascular events because both are known to be exacerbated by landscape fire smoke.

The study’s modelling also incorporates:

  • Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions landscape fire data that included date, location and size of fires
  • socioeconomic data sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and based on patients’ area of residence
  • environment and climate data such as air quality, temperature, humidity and residential wood fire use.

The project was a collaborative effort which, in addition to the Department of Health, involved:

  • Curtin University
  • the Bureau of Meteorology
  • Spatial consulting company NGIS
  • FrontierSI, a collaborative research and development centre that brings together government, industry and university partners to conduct geospatial research.


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