A wildfire growth prediction and evaluation approach using Landsat and MODIS data

J Environ Manage. 2022 Feb 15;304:114351. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2021.114351. Epub 2021 Dec 21.


The increasing wildfire occurrence due to global climate changes urged the improvement of present wildfire growth prediction and evaluation methods. This study aimed to propose novel solutions to their two primary limitations, including the lack of robust fuel classification method and the low spatial resolution of wildfire growth accuracy assessment while ensuring wide applicability using open data satellite missions and software. The first objective was to create a robust two-step fuel model classification method consisted of the supervised machine learning classification of generalized land cover classes in the 1st level and their individual unsupervised classification to vegetation subtypes in the 2nd level. The second objective was creating a wildfire prediction accuracy assessment method using MODIS 250 m images, which overcome the limitations of low spatial resolution while preserving sub-daily temporal resolution. The wildfire on the Korčula island in Croatia was analyzed in the study, being specific for its long duration from 18 to 24 July 2015. The wildfire ignition occurred in the isolated area, which prolonged the response time from emergency agencies. Random Forest (RF) with input Landsat 8 spectral bands and indices resulted in the highest classification accuracy in the 1st classification level with an overall agreement of 83.6%. The vegetation subclasses from the 2nd classification level were matched to the 13 standard fuel models for the input in FARSITE software. The predicted wildfire evaluation showed the highest mean accuracy of 0.906 for the first two days, which decreased to 0.722 in the latter stages of the active wildfire caused by overprediction. The proposed two-step fuel model classification presented a cost-efficient solution to the fuel map creation in any part of the world, with a disadvantage of no in-situ ground truth identification and accuracy assessment for 2nd classification level. The evaluation of wildfire growth prediction with 250 m images enabled high spatial and temporal resolution of the assessment, while its limitations of wildfire overprediction and the negative effects of wildfire smoke in MODIS images should be addressed in future research.

Keywords: FARSITE; Forest fire; Fuel model; Landsat 8; MODIS; Machine learning.

MeSH terms

  • Croatia
  • Smoke
  • Wildfires*


  • Smoke