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Discussion papers | Copyright
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 21 Sep 2018

Research article | 21 Sep 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences (NHESS).

A first wildfire risk assessment for Belgium

Arthur Depicker, Bernard De Baets, and Jan M. Baetens Arthur Depicker et al.
  • KERMIT, Dept. of Data Analysis and Mathematical Modelling, Ghent University, Coupure links 653, 9000 Ghent, Belgium

Abstract. This paper presents a wildfire ignition probability map for Belgium that may serve as a proxy for wildfire risk. Wildfires have proven to cause considerable damage to valuable Natura 2000 areas in Belgium in the past, and the prevalence of such events is anticipated to increase in the future. Therefore, a risk map can be used to optimize the allocation of wildfire prevention and fighting resources. Even more, such a map is required by EU legislation in order to receive financial support for wildfire-related forest and nature management. Firstly, clear definitions of wildfire risk and wildfire hazard are given to avoid misconceptions of the used wildfire terminology. The former is assessed as the wildfire ignition probability, while the latter is regarded as the fire potential and is assumed to be solely determined by the characteristics of the vegetation. Secondly, an actual wildfire hazard map is designed using an existing expert system. Thirdly, a wildfire ignition probability map is constructed by relying on Bayes' rule and using spatial wildfire ignition data, on the one hand, and spatial data on land use, soil type, and land cover, on the other hand. It appears that the most wildfire prone areas in Belgium are located in heathland where military exercises are held. The provinces that have the largest relative areas with a high or very high wildfire risk are Limburg (24.67%), Antwerp (20.64%), and Luxembourg (4.54%). Our study also reveals that most wildfire ignitions in Belgium are due to humans (arson, cigarettes,...), and that natural causes such as lightning are rather scarce.

Arthur Depicker et al.
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Arthur Depicker et al.
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Latest update: 18 Oct 2018
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
In recent years, several valuable nature reserves in Belgium have been severely damaged by wildfires. In order to optimize the risk management and get prepared for a possibly increasing number of such events, a first wildfire risk map is developed for Belgium, based on data that was obtained from the government and newspaper articles.
In recent years, several valuable nature reserves in Belgium have been severely damaged by...