Smoke Might Just Be Smoke For Victoria’s FireReady App

Smoke Might Just Be Smoke For Victoria’s FireReady App
Facebook may have decided that you shouldn’t see the news, but we think you deserve to be in the know with Lifehacker Australia’s content. To sign up for our daily newsletter covering the latest news, hacks and reviews, head HERE. For a running feed of all our stories, follow us on Twitter HERE. Or you can bookmark the Lifehacker Australia homepage to visit whenever you need a fix.

The risk of devastating fires over the Australian summer will always be a threat, though technology has given us new tools so people can stay informed. One such option is the Victorian Government’s FireReady app, which includes features such as a live incident map, “watch zones” and warnings from relevant organisations such as the Country Fire Authority. However, FireReady has recently copped flak for reporting false positives.

An article on The Age points out one particular incident where a user was informed by the app that a fire was within a few kilometres of their location, when in reality this was not the case. How exactly does an inaccurate report occur?

Triple-zero calls are the source of information and the priority is on speed, rather than veracity. From The Age:

It means a dust cloud could be logged as a fire if a caller mistakenly reports that.
[Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley] says it’s important people get the earliest possible information, but it’s difficult to do with 100 per cent accuracy.
“As a fire is reported we put it out there, but it might not be in the exact location and therefore people would say it is inaccurate,” he told Fairfax radio on Friday.

Lapsley goes on to say that the service should “make sure” there’s more human intervention in the system so that reports are verified before being sent out.

It’s not the first time the app has been criticised, with the story mentioning the switch to Apple Maps caused some problems and an incorrect fire warning went out to 500,000 users in late 2013.

Victorian bushfire app under fire over ‘inaccurate’ data [The Age]


  • perhaps a volunteer force of associate members of the CFA or other emergency services could check these sightings in lesser busy areas.
    These would be people who would not normally be expected for active fire fighting duties and would be kept away from active areas as usual.
    Associate members are usually involved in fundraising and infomation but not actually fight fires.
    They would need to be trained in accuracy processes and have a radio and GPS and basic map skills. Perhaps the SES might also benefit and may prompt a government examination of benefits and risks.
    All would be needed is for a person to approach within kilometers of a smoke sighting and confirm smoke or flames over radio. Regular firies can also check the same site as usual if time allows and coordination efficiency can be guaged with a pilot scheme.

  • Ex-firefighter here.

    The time from first sighting to having a crew on-site in some areas of the state can be up to 15-minutes, more if fires are already active in the area and a crew needs to travel from a neighboring area. That time is more than enough for a small fire to build into a major fire, so waiting until a crew has arrived to confirm a fire could (in theory) be the difference between life and death.

    On high-fire-activity days, haze in the air can contribute to dust being called in as smoke, especially in areas where spotter-towers don’t have a good view to confirm.

    False-positives are annoying, but they are better than waiting.

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!