Technical Guide to Map and to Characterize Wildland-Urban Interfaces (WUIs)

In the European Mediterranean Wildfire Risk Context

Technical Guide to Map and to Characterize Wildland-Urban Interfaces (WUIs) in the European Mediterranean Wildfire Risk Context In recent decades, the expansion of the WUIs has significant implications for wildfire management. WUIs are defined as the area where structures and other human development meet or mix with undeveloped wildland. WUIs create an environment in which fire can move easily between structures and vegetation fuels and where fire frequently occurs due to human activity. Their expansion has thus increased the likelihood that wildfires will threaten structures and people. To broaden the information base upon which decisions are made regarding fire activities, the Cemagref team (France), involved in the Fire Paradox project, has worked on a guide which proposes to map and to characterize WUIs in the Mediterranean context.

Product's leader

Corine Lampin-->
Corinne Lampin-Maillet
Forest engineer-researcher at Cemagref, doctor in geography
Coordinator of Fire paradox Module 5

Who will be interested in this product and why?

I think that managers of territorial planning, forest managers and fire fighters can be interested in this guide. They will be able to assess the extent of wildland-urban interfaces on their territory and to specify and apply adapted fire prevention actions in order to mitigate wildfire risk. I also imagine that inhabitants themselves, faced to knowledge brought by a WUI map, could be interested and become aware of the risky location of their houses.
The method developed in the guide has already been used in the South of France for forest fire prevention plan at the level of a department or of a whole of municipalities. It is being developed in Spain near Madrid.

What are the innovative features?

WUI mapping according to the method developed in the guide is a way to describe and quantify the territory. Territory is drawn on the one hand through the 12 types of WUI according to structure of vegetation and building configuration and on the other hand through other land covers located outside WUI. It is also possible to measure the extent of WUIs and their development within a territory dynamic. Thanks to relationships established between WUIs and fire indicators calculated with past fire data (fire ignition density, wildfire density and burned area ratio), it is possible to point out specific WUIs which present a high level of fire risk. And regarding these fire indicators, it allows to develop an innovative approach for a global fire risk assessment in WUIs and its mapping.

How does it serve the European cause and promotes the philosophy of Fire Paradox?

As we can imagine, wildland-urban interface is a location which is particularly appreciated by inhabitants to live in. Indeed living near or inside wildland, woodland areas, people strive for a specific quality of life near a natural environment. But in our Mediterranean context this lifestyle is not safe: people should always be aware of the existing fire risk in such WUI and should respect and apply efficient recommendations to insure against risky situations.
As you know Fire Paradox program promotes the increased use of fuel reduction to decrease fuel loading in our Mediterranean environment. The WUI map is yet key information to point out locations where vegetation has to be reduced in order to protect the houses and their inhabitants in case of wildfires and where careful behaviour are essential to avoid fire ignition.


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General objectives

The WUI guide developed method for mapping Wildland-Urban Interfaces at regional and local scale in the European Mediterranean context. It also developed a method for assessing and mapping fire risk in Wildland-Urban Interfaces through the calculation of a global fire risk index. The Cemagref Team will also come forward with some recommendations to improve current and future life in the WUI and close to it, by considering fire risk. The method is based on remote sensing and spatial analysis. The main objective is to help end-users such as land managers, foresters and fire-fighters to locate WUIs on the territory with a view to develop specific actions for wildfires prevention according to WUI types, to create public awareness programs for inhabitants faced with wildfire risk, and to assess fire fighting difficulties due to urbanization. It includes different tools for WUI mapping, such as structures and vegetation layers mapping.


Innovative aspects

A set of processes for mapping wildland-urban interfaces (WUIs) extension and for mapping a global index of wildfire risk in these WUIs.

After specifying accurate definition and typology of WUI (Fig1), WUIs can now be mapped on large areas and at local and regional scales, by developing an easily reproducible method based on objective and quantitative criteria (Fig2). Their extension can be quantified on the territory and their main characteristics can be defined.
Then the goal consisting in mapping a global index of wildfire risk in the WUIs (Fig4) may be achieved by:
- Establishing relationships between WUI types and spatial distribution of fire ignition points and burned areas of past fires (Fig3)
- Identifying a wide variety of factors influencing fire risk on the territory and proposing a global index of wildfire risk in WUIs
At the end it can be assumed that both, the global index of fire risk and the intermediate relationships are useful for the managers of territorial planning, emergencies and forest fire prevention and fighting.

Technical Guide Screenshot


Fig 1. Wildland urban interface typology in Lampin-Maillet et al (2009a)
Fig 1. Wildland urban interface typology in Lampin-Maillet et al (2009a)


Fig2. Wildland urban interface mapping
Fig2. Wildland urban interface mapping


Fig3. Fire ignition density and burned area ratio according to WUI types in Lampin-Maillet (2009)
Fig3. Fire ignition density and burned area ratio according to WUI types in Lampin-Maillet (2009)


Fig4. Map of wildfire risk global index in WUIs in Lampin-Maillet (2009)
Fig4. Map of wildfire risk global index in WUIs in Lampin-Maillet (2009)


Technical Guide to Map and to Characterize Wildland-Urban Interfaces (WUIs) in the European Mediterranean Wildfire Risk Context



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