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Geospatial Modeling of Containment Probability for Escaped Wildfires in a Mediterranean Region

Rodrigues, M; Alcasena, F; Gelabert, P; Vega-Garcia, C

RISK ANALYSIS
2020
VL / 40 - BP / 1762 - EP / 1779
abstract
Despite escalating expenditures in firefighting, extreme fire events continue to pose a major threat to ecosystem services and human communities in Mediterranean areas. Developing a safe and effective fire response is paramount to efficiently restrict fire spread, reduce negative effects to natural values, prevent residential housing losses, and avoid causalties. Though current fire policies in most countries demand full suppression, few studies have attempted to identify the strategic locations where firefighting efforts would likely contain catastrophic fire events. The success in containing those fires that escape initial attack is determined by diverse structural factors such as ground accessibility, airborne support, barriers to surface fire spread, and vegetation impedance. In this study, we predicted the success in fire containment across Catalonia (northeastern Spain) using a model generated with random forest from detailed geospatial data and a set of 73 fire perimeters for the period 2008-2016. The model attained a high predictive performance (AUC = 0.88), and the results were provided at fine resolution (25 m) for the entire study area (32,108 km(2)). The highest success rates were found in agricultural plains along the nonburnable barriers such as major road corridors and largest rivers. Low levels of containment likelihood were predicted for dense forest lands and steep-relief mountainous areas. The results can assist in suppression resource pre-positioning and extended attack decision making, but also in strategic fuels management oriented at creating defensive locations and fragmenting the landscape in operational firefighting areas. Our modeling workflow and methods may serve as a baseline to generate locally adapted models in fire-prone areas elsewhere.

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PROYECTO FINANCIADO POR PLAN NACIONAL DE INVESTIGACIÓN AGENCIA ESTATAL DE INVESTIGACIÓN, MINISTERIO DE CIENCIA E INNOVACIÓN. PID2019-109127RB-I00