Fire is a hazard that often arises as a secondary event to other types of hazards such as earthquakes or droughts. Urban fires can commonly cause death, injury, or long-lasting ill health (from smoke inhalation) to building inhabitants, as well as destroying property and potentially releasing toxic fumes into the environment.

Wild fires are also a serious and growing hazard over many parts of the world, posing a threat to life and property, particularly when they move from forest or rangeland into developed areas. The effects of wild fires vary with intensity, area and time of year, but can include the complete destruction of valuable resources, such as timber, wildlife habitat, recreation areas and watersheds. Watersheds become more susceptible to erosion from rainstorms following a fire because of the loss of ground-surface cover and the chemical transformation of burned soils.

How Natural Hazards New Zealand can help:

Any fire hazard plan first begins with an assessment of the hazard and risk your region faces. For this, Natural Hazards New Zealand can undertake hazard vulnerability studies; damage and loss assessment modelling; and economic impact studies. Fire hazard vulnerability studies take into account the available fuels (the type of natural vegetation or even the soil type if the ground contains flammable materials such as peat or exposed coal seams); the topography (fires can burn faster up slopes), the seasonal weather conditions (temperature, rainfall, humidity, and wind); and the production of embers (as a source of new fires). Once the physical behaviours of a fire have been modelled, it is possible to measure the potential for damage and loss (risk assessments). When your region’s fire hazard and risk has been assessed, we at the Natural Hazards New Zealand (NHNZ) cluster know that good emergency response planning; land-use and infrastructure planning (such as fire breaks, road widths, and emergency water supplies); building design (such as fire-resistant construction and non-flammable roofs); and community awareness can reduce fire hazard impacts. As you will see from our fire hazard-related projects below, we’re already employed around the globe with this type of planning and preparedness, including several World Bank, Asia Development Bank, United Nations Development Programme, NZAid and AusAID-funded initiatives.

If your region does not have fire hazard plans in place, or your plans need upgrading, we would like to help.

Click here to view some NHNZ fire projects

Natural Hazards Inc. members and their key experts with experience on fire:

GNS Science

Massey University/GNS Science - Joint Centre for Disaster Research