ANALYSIS OF THE OCCURRENCE OF FIRE PATTERNS IN A LIMITED AREA.

Christophe. JOLY
Centre de Traitement de l’Information Géographique, Climatologie,
Institut de Géographie-Université Aix-Marseille I, 29 Av. Robert SCHUMAN, 13621 Aix-en-Provence cedex 1,
France, Fax : (33) 04 42 64 01 58 . : joly@romarin.univ-aix.fr

Keywords : Fire ignitions, G.I.S, France, Rural and Urban interfacing, “hot-spot” locations.

Summary
The national PROMETHEE database was founded in 1973 in France, as an
experiment to increase fire knowledge within a historical framework. This data modeled to
European standard, has always improved in quality and is now on-line
(www.promethee.com). Numerous experiments were made upon this data and the interest for
historical data is increasing with the generalisation of the use of the Geographic Information
System (G.I.S) as an analytical tool. This paper relates some first results of a localised study
case.

Definition of the study zone :
Our study zone is located in south of France, near Marseille. We considered this area
as a spatial unity historically defined by French administration. Our choice is coherent with
the aim of working on a database which meets national requirements. The total zone covered
is about 110 by 65 kilometres. About 36 % of the area is covered by forest, concentrated in
the eastern part which consists of limestone and mountainous terrain. Altitudes are very
roughly distributed between sea level to 1011 metres at the top of the Sainte-Victoire
mountain near Aix-en-Provence. This mountain and the cliffs of the Cap Canaille near Cassis,
one of the highest in Europe, show the irregular character of this terrain. On the other hand the
region of the Camargue in the western part of the zone is very flat. All of this area is surveyed
in summer by the forest service, increasing the opportunity of recording a maximum number
of incidents of fire for the database.

Definition of the dataset used :
We indexed 3729 fire events from 1981 to 1997 in the area. 16 years of data extracted
from the Promethee database. This accounts for about 233 fires per year.

Spatial definition and treatment of the data :
Each fire is recorded in the database divided into a grid comprising of sections
representing 4 km². This is a system dedicated to recording forest fires using a georeferencing square called DFCI (Défence des Forêts Contre L’Incendie). We superimposed
information from this referencing grid onto coverage data taken from Corine-Landcover
within the G.I.S. Then we can select all the cells that contain a forested area and work upon a
fire sensitive area.

1

The departement numbers 2511 DFCI cells. Through the use of our database we determined that only 740 cells are concerned with fire ignitions. Due to human error in the field. In the total dispersion of fires in figure I. a total of 1131 are in. or at the limit of. 92 cells are outside. Of these. This represents 28 fires wrongly located outside the selected zone (Figure I). “Hot-Spot” fire ignition pattern determination : 2 . forested cells. a forested area of more than 25 Hectares (500*500 meters). Figure I : To conclude our study of potentially fire sensitive cells. The vegetation in this area has been traditionally kept in check thanks to grazing animals reducing fire risk to near zero. 10 are on island domains currently highly protected and with a very low vegetation coverage. in the lake Berre or outside the departements limits due to human error in relating the fires co-ordinates. Fires are concentrated in the perimeters of the forests. As we checked the database we observed that this mediterranean vegetative area accounted for only three fires during the period. In this total 22 cells are located in the sea. we can observe the external distribution of fire ignition in the forests. we considered a total 920 cells. This phenomenon of the localisation of the most fire sensitive areas is well known to the more experienced fire-fighters but all of this knowledge is lost when they retire from work. In total only 930 cells are potentially flammable. and one of them seems to have been a recording error on the part of the forest service. Of all these cells. they rarely occur in the centre. The difference between the forested cells and potentially flammable ones is accounted for by the Crau which is an area of natural steppes in the Camargue region. or at the limit of.

17 1062000 676000 63.F. 3 . Typology changed occured in 1997.56 Identified causes (number) 41-30 52(2)-53(2) 41-99-21 30-33 33-53 30(3)-52-21 30(2)-41(2)99(2) 99(3)-69-42 21(2)-52(3)42-30 30 30(2)-24-41 41 (12. We noted that only 12 cells contain more than 20 ignitions in the total period. This covers all notions of acts of voluntary fire. two are malevolent acts which took place during the summer period. It is located in a special position down-wind of Gardanne.65 2663000 433000 2585000 380000 97.81 156290 118090 75. 52.61 74.33). a highly industrial area.00 52. Of those 334 events.42 90.56 3228100 3193500 98.2 %) Total Total in Percentage surface summer burned in burned summer from the cell (Hectares) 62100 28100 45.07 87.36 68.82 51.76 175100 143950 8427110 110100 138800 7587690 62.32.9 % of the fires are concentrated in 1.00 60.71 82.07 38. The first cause identified here is malevolence (30. Table I : Cell DFCI Coordinate Number of ignitions Ignitions in Percentage summer ignited in (June to summer September) kd60c9 kd60c5 kd60a8 kd02h4 kd20e9 kd22a2 kd22h6 kd40h9 32 25 25 21 23 27 21 22 16 15 13 18 19 20 8 17 50.31.38 86.3 % of the potentially combustible cells in the region. four have been cause identified. if we cartograph the more dangerous cell locations (figure II) we can observe a particular location in the group. We can see in table I proportions and known causes of fires in the 12 cells.43 kd42h5 kd42h6 total 37 44 334 29 38 229 78.88 96.03 136700 133700 97. only 42 are cause determined (12. Potentially combustible cells represent 36.25 44660 25500 57. which may be a cause of confusion for current data. one due to forestry works in April and the last one caused by rubbish tips in summer.10 77. Of these fires.We have summarized the total number of fires per D. This proportion matches database findings. one of 279 hectares burned on the 14 of July 1989 in Martigues.93 46710 22500 48.00 85.10 275500 176400 64.C.5 %).6 % of the total cells of the region. Finally. These twelve cells are always located on the perimeter of a forested area which happens to be in contact with a zone of high human activity level. This represents 334 fires from a total of 3729 (concerning erroneous data). In any case it would appears that the “hot-spot” cells are largely defined by human activity.I cells in the database. 53) are the second. The identified causes of ignition are hereby shown to be representative of the figure to be found in the database. This “hot-spot” group include two events of medium importance concerning the spread of fire. One of these “hot-spots” has registered 44 fires.04 From our table we can conclude that of 8. Careless causes (51. the other of 250 hectares which burned on the 28 of August 1989 near Marseille.27 kd42c1 kd42c3 22 35 18 18 81.

With about 150 fire ignitions in the night of the 14th of July 1998. We know that because of the distribution of the safety services in this area. Each year in summer. we can determine the sensitive levels of the forested area in the totality of the studied zone. Furthermore. 75 for the same night in 1999. By taking into account a digital terrain model in the G. They are all in the more urban part of it. all fire ignitions are not effectively registered in the database. the conjunction with the world cup show the extreme impact of sociologic and human leadership on fire occurrence. The largest ones are in the eastern part between Marseille. The general distribution of the data shows the highly sensitive character of the most urban and mountainous parts of the area.I. the effect of the national commemoration or as in 1998.S we can observe the distribution in mountainous and windy area. Aubagne and Gardanne.Figure II : Also we can see that those 12 cells are concentrated in the south-east part of the zone. in order to clarify the distinction between rural and urban area we have to consider the special case of Marseille apart. Future developments: As we have isolated what we have defined as the most sensitive points of ignition in the zone. the suburbs of Marseille show its “red-belt” character given by the fire-fighters. In this extremely mixed area we will consider fire risk in relation with fuel continuity to assess the difference between mediterranean forested areas and intersticial fire danger in the urban 4 . The distribution of the “hot-spot” ignition cells show a high level of junction with human activity infrastructures. The cells with the lowest number of fires are concentrated between the north of Marseille and the lake Berre. It is the part of the zone where forested area and human activity concentration zones are very close.

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