DOI: 10.3390/fire6090343 ISSN:

Wildland–Urban Interface: Definition and Physical Fire Risk Mitigation Measures, a Systematic Review

Flavio Taccaliti, Raffaella Marzano, Tina L. Bell, Emanuele Lingua
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Safety Research
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Building and Construction
  • Forestry

Due to the associated fire risk, the wildland–urban interface (WUI) has drawn the attention of researchers and managers from a range of backgrounds. From a land management point of view, it is important to identify the WUI to determine areas to prioritise for fire risk prevention. It is also important to know the fire risk mitigation measures available to select the most appropriate for each specific context. In this systematic review, definitions of the WUI were investigated and physical mitigation measures for reducing the risk of fire were examined from a land management perspective. The PRISMA 2020 Statement was applied to records published until 31 December 2022 and retrieved from the Web of Science, Scopus, and other research engines. A total of 162 publications from scientific journals and the grey literature were scrutinised and selected for analysis. Only publications providing an original definition of the WUI or proposing physical measures to reduce fire risk at the interface were retained, while those relating to emergency management and social perception were not considered. The risk of bias was reduced by internal cross-assessment by the research team. Definitions of the WUI (n = 40 publications) changed according to the research objective, varying broadly in identification of the anthropogenic and the wildland components of the interface. Terminology varied according to the definition, and the term wildland–human interface (WHI) was found to be more comprehensive than WUI. Methodological definitions of the interface ranged from using aggregated data through to identification of the buildings at risk in the interface with considerable precision. Five categories of physical fire risk mitigation measures (n = 128 publications) were identified: clearance distances, landscaping, wildland fuel management, land planning, and buildings design and materials. The most effective measures were those applied at early stages of urban development, and maintenance of assets and vegetation is crucial for preparedness. This review represents an analysis of scientific evidence on which land managers can base their actions to reduce the fire hazard risk in the WUI. The number of studies investigating the WUI is considerable, but experimental studies and quantitative results are scarce, and better communication and coordination among research groups and land management agencies is advisable. This systematic review was not registered.

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