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Wildfire risk in large urban–forest systems and the multi-emergency management solutions

Marc Castellnou, Oriol Vilalta, Mariona Borràs, Jordi Vendrell, Pepa Moran, Anna Zahonero and Núria Prat-Guitart

(Submission #398)


The risk of wildfires in urban areas has increased globally due to climate change, the abandonment of rural areas and the expansion of cities towards forested areas. A dense and unmanaged forest close to an urban area can contribute in developing an uncontrolled fire behaviour during a wildfire. In this situation, the fire management and extinction services can easily be overwhelmed and the safety of citizens and assets can be compromised. The international community on wildfire management has identified the vulnerability of urban regions and the incapacity of the emergency systems to efficiently deal with large wildfires while protecting individual assets. To reduce the risk of natural and humanitarian disasters caused by large wildfires in urban areas, there is the need to understand the complexity of the landscape, integrating ecological, social and economic components. To accomplish that, the collaboration and research among professionals from different disciplines is required. We present the case study of Barcelona Metropolitan Area, an urban-forest system of 4.5 million people, including a range of international infrastructures and surrounded by three Natural Parks. In a potential wildfire situation (5th generation wildfire), there is risk of uncontrolled wildfires affecting peri-urban communities, which would cause the emergency system to collapse. In addition, an intense wildfire could lead to large property damage and economic loses. We have analysed the risk of wildfires in Barcelona from a multi-emergency perspective (i.e. environmental and social). We have included to the analysis the dynamic condition of the such complex landscapes. The outputs of the analysis are spatiotemporal landscape representations (graphic, cartographic, notation systems…) which have then been used to explore and visualise possible wildfire emergency scenarios. Finally, these future scenarios have been coupled with the recently developed PHAROS emergency-management system, which integrates environmental and social prevention and emergency management tools, in order to reduce the wildfire risk and improve the efficiency during the management of complex wildfire situations. The Barcelona case can be used to show the way small-scale changes can be used to develop a more effective risk management and increase the response capacity of emergency services. The study has integrated the experience of a multidisciplinary team of firefighters, biologists, environmentalists, engineers, economists, landscape architects and urbanists among others.


Topic Area:  [1.8] Risk and management of natural disasters
Abstract Type:  Oral Presentation

Additional fields

Comments:   forest fire, emergency management, risk management, landscape, Barcelona, management tools

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