International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire

Probability based models for estimation of wildfire risk*

Haiganoush K. Preisler A , David R. Brillinger B , Robert E. Burgan C and J. W. Benoit D

A USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, 800 Buchanan St., West Annex, Albany, CA 94710, USA. Telephone: +1 510 559 6484; fax: +1 510 559 6440; email:

B Department of Statistics, 367 Evans Hall, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-3860, USA. Telephone: +1 510 642 0611; fax: +1 510 642 7892; email:

C Retired, Intermountain Fire Sciences Laboratory.

D USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Riverside Fire Laboratory.

International Journal of Wildland Fire 13(2) 133-142
Submitted: 16 November 2002  Accepted: 7 November 2003   Published: 29 June 2004


We present a probability-based model for estimating fire risk. Risk is defined using three probabilities: the probability of fire occurrence; the conditional probability of a large fire given ignition; and the unconditional probability of a large fire. The model is based on grouped data at the 1 km2-day cell level. We fit a spatially and temporally explicit non-parametric logistic regression to the grouped data. The probability framework is particularly useful for assessing the utility of explanatory variables, such as fire weather and danger indices for predicting fire risk. The model may also be used to produce maps of predicted probabilities and to estimate the total number of expected fires, or large fires, in a given region and time period. As an example we use historic data from the State of Oregon to study the significance and the forms of relationships between some of the commonly used weather and danger variables on the probabilities of fire. We also produce maps of predicted probabilities for the State of Oregon. Graphs of monthly total numbers of fires are also produced for a small region in Oregon, as an example, and expected numbers are compared to actual numbers of fires for the period 1989–1996. The fits appear to be reasonable; however, the standard errors are large indicating the need for additional weather or topographic variables.

Additional keywords: : fire danger indices; fire occurrence probabilities; fire weather; forest fires; non-parametric regression; Oregon; spatial–temporal model.


The authors appreciate the help of Carolyn Chase, Intermountain Fire Sciences Laboratory, in transferring historical weather, fire danger index and fire history data to the Riverside Fire Laboratory.


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* This paper was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and therefore is in the public domain and not subject to copyright.

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