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Assessing wildland fire risk transmission to communities in northern Spain

Posted date: September 25, 2017
Publication Year: 
Authors: Alcasena, Fermín J.; Salis, Michele; Ager, Alan; Castell, Rafael; Vega-García, Cristina
Publication Series: 
Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Source: Forest. 8: 30.


We assessed potential economic losses and transmission to residential houses from wildland fires in a rural area of central Navarra (Spain). Expected losses were quantified at the individual structure level (n = 306) in 14 rural communities by combining fire model predictions of burn probability and fire intensity with susceptibility functions derived from expert judgement. Fire exposure was estimated by simulating 50,000 fire events that replicated extreme (97th percentile) historical fire weather conditions. Spatial ignition probabilities were used in the simulations to account for non-random ignitions, and were estimated from a fire occurrence model generated with an artificial neural network. The results showed that ignition probability explained most of spatial variation in risk, with economic value of structures having only a minor effect. Average expected loss to residential houses from a single wildfire event in the study area was 7955, and ranged from a low of 740 to the high of 28,725. Major fire flow-paths were analyzed to understand fire transmission from surrounding municipalities and showed that incoming fires from the north exhibited strong pathways into the core of the study area, and fires spreading from the south had the highest likelihood of reaching target residential structures from the longest distances (>5 km). Community firesheds revealed the scale of risk to communities and extended well beyond administrative boundaries. The results provided a quantitative risk assessment that can be used by insurance companies and local landscape managers to prioritize and allocate investments to treat wildland fuels and identify clusters of high expected loss within communities. The methodological framework can be extended to other fire-prone southern European Union countries where communities are threatened by large wildland fires.


Alcasena, Fermín J.; Salis, Michele; Ager, Alan A.; Castell, Rafael; Vega-García, Cristina. 2017. Assessing wildland fire risk transmission to communities in northern Spain. Forest. 8: 30.