Session 17: Wildfires in urban area

Organisers: Anna Brook, Lea Wittenberg, University of Haifa, Israel.


The frequency and extent of wildfires in the Mediterranean have been steadily increasing over the past decades. These fires not only cause loss of life and damage to properties but also carry serious environmental and economic repercussions. Climate extremes, land-use changes and human population growth are the most prevailing and common determinant of wildfire occurrence and impacts. The combination of extreme dry spells, high fuel loads and increased anthropogenic pressure on the open spaces result in an overall amplified wildfire risk, and in many cases, severe damage to forests and infrastructures.

Today, many metropolitan centers, towns and villages are embedded within the urban/rural interface. Possible climate changes, socio-economic trends, and intense land use pressures are contributing factors in a challenge to deal with forest fires along these areas. The transitional zones between wildlands and urbanized spaces, generally defined as wildland–urban interface (WUI), represents an increasing fire-risk factor in Mediterranean areas. The WUI have unique landscape and typological elements that require a specific planning and fire management approaches.

The Mediterranean settlement mosaic is composed of a unique combination of green and built infrastructures.  The built infrastructures are sparsely distributed and intervened with green infrastructures which create long and winding zones of interactions with the built-up environment. Accordingly, wildfires that break out in open areas on the outskirts of the city may develop into complex urban fires accompanied by extensive damage to human life and property.

Better understanding of wildfire regime, dynamics and behavior within the WUI, requires a deep theoretical understanding of the compound interaction between physical and anthropogenic forces, operating in the complex urban fabric. This understanding may serve as a basis for the development of tools and approaches for ‘fire-sensitive’ urban planning.

This session aims at bringing all researches with an interest in urban-wildland wildfires together to foster new ideas and share research experience.  Studies emphasizing cross-disciplinary approaches: experimental, modeling, the use of new technologies and practical implementation are very welcome.