Location and causality of fire ignition hotspots in a Mediterranean region

Fire ignitions tend to follow specific aggregation patterns, both spatial and temporal, depending on their causality. Acquiring knowledge about how ignitions aggregate in a territory provides valuable information for improving preventive fire fighting strategies.

In Mediterranean regions, where human activity is the main cause of ignitions, identifying areas with a very high probability of fire occurrence may highlight the existence of underlying factors, inducing the presence of fire occurrence “hotspots”.

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Researchers from the Forest Sciences Center of Catalonia (CTFC) and from the Fire Prevention Service of the Generalitat de Catalunya analysed the distribution of fire ignitions occurring in Catalonia during the period 1995 – 2006, using kernel methods. The proportion of fires by cause was compared, both for the whole Catalan territory and within the areas defined as ignition “hotspots” (minimum areas condensing a 10 or 20% of the total ignitions, irrespective of cause).

The results obtained, in addition to delimitating the ignition hotspot, showed that the activities of arsonists had a very high tendency to be focused on specific areas within the region, and were precursors to ignition hotspots appearing. In Catalonia, arson accounts for 24.3% of fires, whereas, in the defined hotspots, that percentage rises to a significant 60.1%.

This study, published online in the International Journal of Wildland Fire, has helped the Catalan government to design a protocol alerting the presence or emergence of potential arsonist activity.

Photo: Bombers, Generalitat de Catalunya

For more information, please contact José Ramón Gonzalez-Olabarria: jr.gonzalez@ctfc.es

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