Estimating Next Day’s Forest Fire Risk via a Complete Machine Learning Methodology Full text

Alexis Apostolakis, Stella Girtsou, Giorgos Giannopoulos, Nikolaos S Bartsotas, Charalampos Kontoes
Remote Sensing 14, no. 5: 1222.
Abstract. Next day wildfire prediction is an open research problem with significant environmental, social, and economic impact since it can produce methods and tools directly exploitable by fire services, assisting, thus, in the prevention of fire occurrences or the mitigation of their effects. It consists in accurately predicting which areas of a territory are at higher risk of fire occurrence each next day, exploiting solely information obtained up until the previous day. The task’s requirements in spatial granularity and scale of predictions, as well as the extreme imbalance of the data distribution render it a rather demanding and difficult to accurately solve the problem. This is reflected in the current literature, where most existing works handle a simplified or limited version of the problem. Taking into account the above problem specificities, in this paper, we present a machine learning methodology that effectively (sensitivity > 90%, specificity > 65%) and efficiently performs next day fire prediction, in rather high spatial granularity and in the scale of a country. The key points of the proposed approach are summarized in: (a) the utilization of an extended set of fire driving factors (features), including topography-related, meteorology-related and Earth Observation (EO)-related features, as well as historical information of areas’ proneness to fire occurrence; (b) the deployment of a set of state-of-the-art classification algorithms that are properly tuned/optimized on the setting; (c) two alternative cross-validation schemes along with custom validation measures that allow the optimal and sound training of classification models, as well as the selection of different models, in relation to the desired trade-off between sensitivity (ratio of correctly identified fire areas) and specificity (ratio of correctly identified non-fire areas). In parallel, we discuss pitfalls, intuitions, best practices, and directions for further investigation derived from our analysis and experimental evaluation.