Environmental Management

, Volume 52, Issue 6, pp 1427–1439 | Cite as

Modeling Fire Susceptibility to Delineate Wildland–Urban Interface for Municipal-Scale Fire Risk Management

  • Ellen Whitman
  • Eric Rapaport
  • Kate Sherren


The wildland–urban interface (WUI) is the region where development meets and intermingles with wildlands. The WUI has an elevated fire risk due to the proximity of development and residents to wildlands with natural wildfire regimes. Existing methods of delineating WUI are typically applied over a large region, use proxies for risk, and do not consider site-specific fire hazard drivers. While these models are appropriate for federal and provincial risk management, municipal managers require models intended for smaller regions. The model developed here uses the Burn-P3 fire behavior model to model WUI from local fire susceptibility (FS) in two study communities. Forest fuel code (FFC) maps for the study communities were modified using remote sensing data to produce detailed forest edges, including ladder fuels, update data currency, and add buildings and roads. The modified FFC maps used in Burn-P3 produced bimodal FS distributions for each community. The WUI in these communities was delineated as areas within community bounds where FS was greater than or equal to −1 SD from the mean FS value (\({\text{WUI}} = {\text{FS}} \geqslant - 1 \, [\bar \chi - \sigma ]\)), which fell in the trough of the bimodal distribution. The WUI so delineated conformed to the definition of WUI. This model extends WUI modeling for broader risk management initiatives for municipal management of risk, as it (a) considers site-specific drivers of fire behavior; (b) models risk, represented by WUI, specific to a community; and, (c) does not use proxies for risk.


Wildland–urban interface Peri-urban Wildfire Risk management NDVI Remote sensing 



The authors would like to acknowledge the Halifax Regional Municipality, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Dalhousie University School for Resource and Environmental Studies for their funding of this project. Thanks to Richard MacLellan, from the HRM Energy and Environment Office for his support of this research. Thanks also to Dustin Oikle and James Bruce of the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources, Risk Services, Forest Protection Branch for collegial discussions and in-kind support. Thanks to Marc-André Parisien of the Canadian Forest Service, Northern Forestry Centre for technical support with Burn-P3. Final thanks to experts who attended our workshop seeking feedback on methods, assumptions, and implications.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School for Resource and Environmental StudiesDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.School of PlanningDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada

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