An Analysis of the spatial distribution of wildfires in California's history 1950-2016

Authors: Alex Shaller*, , Rowan Moody, Clark University
Topics: Hazards, Risks, and Disasters
Keywords: GIS, Environment, Fire, Hazards
Session Type: Guided Poster
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Roosevelt 3.5, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: Download

The 2018 wildfire season in California was both the deadliest and the most destructive on record. There were 8,527 fires during the year that burned an area of 1,893,913 acres of land, more than was previously burned in the past whole decade. In particular, the Camp Fire killed at least 86 people and destroyed more than 18,000 structures, becoming the most deadly and destructive fire in California’s history. We used the Getis-Ord Gi* and Kernel Density tools in ArcGIS to examine the occurrence, spatial distribution, and cluster patterns of forest fires in California between 1950 and 2016. Our objective was to find meaningful patterns that could potentially be used as a resource for future fire prevention or management. We found that there have been significant clusters of forest fires in southern California consistently over the study time frame, while an increasing amount of clusters have occurred in northern California. Additionally, we found an increase in fire density with a northward trend over the study time frame in 20 year intervals. Results from this study shed light on where fires may emerge in the future, and explain that 2018 was a part of a continuing trend of increasing fire damage that could be even more destructive in the years to come.

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