Mapping the probability of large fire occurrence in northern Arizona, USA

Brett G. Dickson, John W. Prather, Yaguang Xu, Haydee M. Hampton, Ethan N. Aumack, Thomas D. Sisk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


In the southwestern U.S., wildland fire frequency and area burned have steadily increased in recent decades, a pattern attributable to multiple ignition sources. To examine contributing landscape factors and patterns related to the occurrence of large (≥20 ha in extent) fires in the forested region of northern Arizona, we assembled a database of lightning- and human-caused fires for the period 1 April to 30 September, 1986-2000. At the landscape scale, we used a weights-of-evidence approach to model and map the probability of occurrence based on all fire types (n = 203), and lightning-caused fires alone (n = 136). In total, large fires burned 101,571 ha on our study area. Fires due to lightning were more frequent and extensive than those caused by humans, although human-caused fires burned large areas during the period of our analysis. For all fires, probability of occurrence was greatest in areas of high topographic roughness and lower road density. Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa)-dominated forest vegetation and mean annual precipitation were less important predictors. Our modeling results indicate that seasonal large fire events are a consequence of non-random patterns of occurrence, and that patterns generated by these events may affect the regional fire regime more extensively than previously thought. Identifying the factors that influence large fires will improve our ability to target resource protection efforts and manage fire risk at the landscape scale.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)747-761
Number of pages15
JournalLandscape Ecology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2006


  • Fire risk
  • Lightning
  • Ponderosa pine
  • Topographic roughness
  • Weights of evidence
  • Wildland fire

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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