Simulation game teaches students about fire danger

Wednesday, 22 November, 2023

Simulation game teaches students about fire danger

The challenges posed by fire in desert country are highlighted in a new simulation game designed for students, Indigenous rangers and landowners.

The Desert Block Fire Simulation, developed by the Indigenous Desert Alliance and Charles Darwin University’s (CDU) Northern Institute, contains three games in which users can learn about how to mitigate the dangers of fire.

The simulation shows the effect of weather, wind and spinifex grass on fire behaviour, with users tasked to protect buildings, waterholes and the Tjakura burrows — home of the great desert skink. Users can sprout spinifex, add the invasive Buffel grass, set sparks and watch how the fire burns and travels.

CDU Northern Institute Researcher Dr Rohan Fisher and his team have worked with the Indigenous Desert Alliance over the past year to develop the simulation.

“We learn by doing. Rather than telling people what do to, they are teaching themselves,” Fisher said.

The game follows an earlier simulation created by Dr Fisher and his team in 2018, working alongside Bushfires NT to develop the Darwin Rural Fire Simulation. Users must protect homes on rural blocks as the game simulates the behaviour of bushfires fuelled by gamba grass.

Since the simulation’s release, it has become a crucial part of community engagement with Bushfires NT and incorporated into teaching at a local school in the Top End’s Dundee region.

“Kids took these lessons to their parents, and it was a driver in efforts to control gamba grass in the Dundee region,” Fisher said.

“It’s amazing to go from a game to having significant impacts on the ground.”

Fisher hopes the desert simulation will have the same success and is working with regions around Australia to develop similar applications in different settings.

“You can’t use the simulation to predict fires, but you can use it for engagement and building resilience,” Fisher said.

“There are applications of this work across a range of environments, and also for areas such as disaster risk mitigation and resourcing.”

Image courtesy of Charles Darwin University.

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