An Empirical Modelling and Simulation Framework for Fire Events Initiated by Vegetation and Electricity Network Interactions


Dean Marchiori


March 26, 2023

Electrical infrastructure is one of the major causes of bushfire in Australia alongside arson and lightning strikes. The two main causes of electrical-infrastructure-initiated fires are asset failure and powerline vegetation interactions. In this paper, we focus on powerline–vegetation interactions that are caused by vegetation falling onto or blowing onto electrical infrastructure. Currently, there is very limited understanding of both the spatio-temporal variability of these events and their causative factors. Bridging this knowledge gap provides an opportunity for electricity utility companies to optimally allocate vegetation management resources and to understand the risk profile presented by vegetation fall-in initiated fires, thereby improving both operational planning and strategic resource allocation. To bridge this knowledge gap, we developed a statistical rare-event modelling and simulation framework based on Endeavour Energy’s fire start and incident records from the last 10 years. The modelling framework consists of nested, rare-event-corrected, conditional probability models for vegetation events and consequent ignition events that provide an overall model for vegetation-initiated ignitions. Model performance was tested on an out-of-time test set to determine the predictive utility of the models. Predictive performance was reasonable with test set AUC values of 0.79 and 0.66 for the vegetation event and ignition event models, respectively. The modelling indicates that wind speed and vegetation features are strongly associated with vegetation events, and that Forest Fire Danger Index (FFDI) and soil type are strongly associated with ignition events. The framework can be used by energy utilities to optimize resource allocation and prepare future networks for climate change.