Incendiary – A fire spread simulation tool

The way in which a fire moves through landscapes is complex and hard to predict. How fire spreads is depends on how much fuel is available, how dry the fuel is and current weather conditions.  Most fires in northern Australia are grass fires; the amount of fuel available is a function of what type of grass is on the ground, and the amount of time since it was last burnt.

Incendiary is a fire spread scenario simulation tool created to allow us to ‘play’ with and explore how fire might spread through the landscape. The primary purpose of Incendiary models is to show how a range of variables affect fire spread when conducting fire management burns early in the dry season and how these fuel reduction fires are likely to affect the spread of late season wildfires.  The models are not attempting to predict fire spread but rather provide a useful teaching and planning tool when thinking about fire management operations in Northern Australia. For this training, the models are being displayed as projections onto sand that we can shape to fit the terrain. Below are a number of videos demonstrating simulation model runs under different conditions and in different northern Australian savanna settings.

Multiple run – spread probability simulation.

Wind condition variation

Fire weather variation

The simulation models shown here have been developed in the free open source  Netlogo Agent-based Modelling software using the best available empirical data sets to modulate fire behavior,

A more detailed description of one model created for the Dhimurru Land Management organisation in East Arnhemland  can be read here.

3D tactile geovisualisation

This work is also exploring tactile 3D geo-simulations for participatory engagement and planning. 3D tactile landscapes combined with projection-augmented models  have the capacity to facilitate mutual understanding of landscape processes, thereby facilitating consensus through interactive, tactile models and assist in the development of a deeper understanding of complex landscape system processes.  The 3D fire spread simulations are being deployed in two formats. In a sandpit form, similar to that being deployed by SimTable in North America (, and as 3D print terrain.

Sand based

3D Print Based

The 3D landscape printing will is using a standard consumer 3D printer to print elevation data as multiple tiles to form large landscape representations


This work is a component of my current PhD research: Improving savanna fire management capacity thorough participatory geosimulation and 3D tactile geo-visualisation.

For more information and demonstrations: