An INSPIRE-compliant open-source GIS for ﬁre-ﬁghting
•Andrea Maria Lingua
•Maria Angela Musci
Received: 10 July 2017 / Accepted: 6 October 2017 / Published online: 17 October 2017
ÓSpringer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017
Abstract Every year, there are almost 50,000 forest ﬁres in Europe (127/day), which have
burned an area equal to more than 450,000 ha. An effective management of forest ﬁres is
therefore fundamental in order to reduce the number of the ﬁres and, especially, the related
burned areas, preserving the environment and saving human lives. However, some prob-
lems still exist in the structure of information and in the harmonization of data and ﬁre
management procedures among different European countries. Pursuing the same interop-
erability aims, the European Union has invested in the development of the INSPIRE
Directive (Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe) to support environmental
policies. Furthermore, the EU (European Union) is currently working on developing ad hoc
infrastructures for the safe management of forests and ﬁres. Moving from this premises and
following an analysis of the state of the art of information systems for forest ﬁre-ﬁghting,
in the light of the end-user requirements, the paper presents the INSPIRE—compliant
design of a geographical information system, implemented using open-source platforms.
Keywords Forest ﬁre-ﬁghting Decision support system Emergency
management INSPIRE data model GIS
As a consequence of the global climate change and the interaction among several natural
and technological hazards, the number of natural disasters, including forest ﬁres, is
increasing. They usually cause life losses and property and environmental damages (IPCC
2014). A recently published international document, the Sendai Framework for Disaster
Risk Reduction 2015–2030 (Sendai Framework 2015), identiﬁes, considering the open
&Maria Angela Musci
Dipartimento di Ingegneria Dell’ambiente, Del Territorio E Delle Infrastrutture (DIATI),
Politecnico di Torino, C.so Duca degli Abruzzi 24, 10129 Turin, Italy
Nat Hazards (2018) 90:623–637
problems, two critical issues: the standardization of the risk and danger factors information
and the necessity to optimize the employed capital in emergencies.
In the list of main natural and man-made disasters, the forest ﬁres take up an important
role, for the seriousness of damages, and the consequent costs (Guha-Sapir et al. 2015).
This phenomenon is widely spread in Europe. The total European burned area only in the
year 2012 (most recent available ofﬁcial data) is 519,424 ha (European Commission—
Joint Research Centre 2012).
In order to be more effective, forest ﬁres require both active and passive ﬁghting
activity. In particular, the management of ﬁre emergencies is organized in three steps
Management, monitoring of ﬁre risk areas and ﬁre-ﬁghting actions are very complex
operations, especially when dealing with ‘‘mega ﬁres’’ (Pyne 2007). Some critical issues
have to be solved for effectively perform these activities by means of automatic and
integrated tools (Chuvieco and Salas 1996).
During each step, the operators must collect and analyse a lot of data, having various
nature (dynamic data, historic series, geometric or thematic data, and so on) (Chuvieco
et al. 2010). Private and public institutions produce and provide data in different and,
sometimes, proprietary formats (Zlatanova et al. 2010). This produces difﬁculties in the
information retrieval process, and the rapid and efﬁcient interpretation and usage of the
data. It is therefore necessary to harmonize the involved data. For example, the national (or
even sub-national) digital maps are often structured following local speciﬁcations and are
shared through independent procedures, which vary in each case.
Finally, the coordination and collaboration among the various operators taking part in
the emergency intervention are essential: ofﬁcial forces (land, marine and air), volunteer
corps, resources coming from neighbouring countries, providing help, and so on. However,
a current difﬁculty is the coordination process, because it is ruled by different procedures
in each country.
These issues have to be taken into action for effectively realizing a uniﬁed European
supporting system for ﬁre-ﬁghting, possibly sharing and optimizing resources.
The foremost tasks to be realized are as follows: an early warning system and a support
for a risk management integrated approach, which allow controlling all the ﬁre-ﬁghting
steps (Fig. 1).
Considering these aspects, this study proposes a method to design and implement a
standard-based Geographic Information System (GIS) increasing the interoperability of
involved data, and producing an effective information for ﬁre-ﬁghting, allowing the pos-
sibility of an automatic and real-time data validation and integration. A possible good
solution could be the use of the European Directive INSPIRE (Information for spatial
information in Europe) (INSPIRE Directive 2007), which has the aim of transboundary
Fig. 1 Steps of the ﬁre-ﬁghting operations
624 Nat Hazards (2018) 90:623–637
cartographic data harmonization and management for environmental protection and
common policies. Nevertheless, the data model proposed by INSPIRE is a complete and
international standard-compliant (e.g. with the ISO/TC211 standards) model, suitable to
represent cartographic entities even outside Europe. For its completeness and application
independence, it could be considered as an ontology.
In the implementation of the system, open-source software products were preferred,
because, ﬁrstly, they are recommended by programs such as ‘‘Interoperable Delivery of
European eGovernment Services to public Administrations, Business and Citizens’’, at
European level (European Commission 2004) or Digital Administration Code in Italy.
Secondly, open-source software were selected for their well-known features such as
cheapness, portability and customization potentiality.
Finally, a further contribution of this study is the introduction of automated processes
such as triggers and speciﬁc queries, which allow the system to be quickly consulted also
exploiting real-time data. Moreover, through similar processes, the system can ﬁll-in
automatically, and in real time, some tables useful for the management of the resources in
ﬁre-ﬁghting activity (e.g. ﬁreﬁghters teams during emergencies).
2 The state of the art: GISs dealing with ﬁres
Currently, in Europe, there are already several GIS platforms providing decision support
for ﬁres issues. However, each system emphasizes only some speciﬁc functionality for the
stages of the ﬁre management. In recent years, some examples of tailored forest ﬁre
decision support systems based on GIS technology have been developed and used in
different regions, for example, France, Italy, Spain and the Alpine areas of Europe.
However, they do not implement the whole process, but only a part, or some parts of it.
In particular, GIS EMERCARTO (made by TRAGSA) (http://visores.tragsatec.es/)is
focused in the command and control of operations, as well as in the management and
allocation of ﬁre-ﬁghting resources and support in the decision-making process in real
time. Another GIS tool was developed by (Moreno et al. 2012), in which a dedicated
simulation was realized for a rapid organization of human resources and their equipment.
The capabilities of this tool allow the analysis of the impact of different ﬁre-ﬁghting
strategies considering different simulated scenarios of active operations on the ﬁeld. In
Italy, the system called SIRIO was developed by (Losso et al. 2012). This system was
tested in Sanremo (Imperia Province, Italy) for monitoring the ﬁre risk areas and giving an
early warning message (e-mail or text message) in real time, when the algorithms detect a
high risk of ﬁre. Nowadays, the European Forest Fire Information System (European
Commission JRC 2000), INSPIRE-compliant, is one of the few GIS applications, aiming at
the retrieval of the data from the whole process of ﬁre-ﬁghting. EFFIS GIS acquires, at this
moment, only the data (e.g. Risk index, hotspots and size of ﬁre) involved in the ﬁre risk
forecasting, and the ﬁres occurred in Europe, using and integrating these historic data to
support decisions. Another case of a fully integrated and interoperable system for ﬁre-
ﬁghting management is the result of ArcFUEL
project (Bonazountas et al. 2012), which
adopts Global Technology standards at all operational layers (e.g. INSPIRE, OGC and
XML/GML). The aim would be providing and producing updated fuel maps to be used in
forest ﬁre management operations and geoplatforms as ArcFIRE
(Mitsopoulos et al.
2014). However, despite these attempts, the use of standards is not so widespread: data
Nat Hazards (2018) 90:623–637 625
content and format are often not uniform, consistent, complete and compatible with the
Following a careful analysis of the existing tools, it is possible to notice that an inte-
grated central system is missing. Moreover, it should be underlined that the metadata of the
observed maps are almost never available, and it is impossible to determine the quality,
accuracy, last updating and further useful information about the data.
3 The design of a standard-compliant spatial data model for ﬁre-ﬁghting
The well-known rules for database modelling, as deﬁned by the ANSI/X3/SPARC standard
(Laurini and Thompson 1992), were followed for designing the GIS.
An effective GIS has to consider all the phases of ﬁre-ﬁghting: prevention, prepared-
ness, ﬁre response and recovery (Fig. 2; Neal 1997).
For ﬁre prevention and preparedness aims, GIS should be used for risk analysis and for
supporting preventive activities and decisions. Considering these aspects, it is important to
integrate various data (e.g. past ﬁres, fuel models and weather) and to simulate some
scenarios (Pausas and Ferna
˜oz 2012) also useful for forecasting activities (Vi-
valda et al. 2017a).
During emergencies, the GIS should be able to help in real-time mission planning,
activities management for ﬁre-ﬁghting, and rescue operations. Being designed as a decision
support system, it should also collect and provide information about network infrastructure,
buildings, number of people in danger, available water supplies and further useful data
involved in the analysis.
For the recovery phase, the system is a useful platform, where to store data of the
mission and update the ﬁre registry. These functionalities are very important for ﬁre
damage assessment and reconstruction planning.
The GIS proposed is composed of three main categories of objects: the competent
authorities and actors in the ﬁre-ﬁghting process (command); the land, intended as objects
that are both to be protected and to be considered in the ﬁre-ﬁghting operations, for various
Fig. 2 Schema of the life cycle stages in forest ﬁre management
626 Nat Hazards (2018) 90:623–637
reasons (infrastructures where to move, water supply resources and so on); and a more
dynamic component describing the events (ﬁre and hotspot) (Fig. 3).
The command entities are represented following the proposal of the project of having a
unique control centre (the command centre), which coordinates the human resources and
the performing operations. This would be a simpliﬁcation of the actual state of things, since
the ﬁre-ﬁghting at present involves, for example in Italy, public and private authorities with
the hierarchical order in Fig. 4. Therefore, the proposal of a single command centre for the
coordination of activities and data processing is needed to optimize the management, the
data distribution, updating and use in emergency situations.
The command centre handles all the data from the local operations centres and is able to
direct both the teams moving in the air and the ones acting on the ground. The proposed
structure consists in a national uniﬁed command centre, that manages the forest moni-
toring, the ﬁre emergencies and all the equipment for ﬁre-ﬁghting. It coordinates local
operating centres, which are responsible for the local resources management, and the
updating of the ﬁres registry and the mission report. Finally, the operating teams handle
ﬁre-ﬁghting operations in the ﬁeld (Fig. 5).
The INSPIRE data model provides fundamentals for completely deﬁning the infor-
mation layers closely related to the land description (e.g. cadastral parcels, building,
exposed element and spot elevation), the event development (for instance, event registry
and event time) and the meteorological data (e.g. meteorological data and stations) (Burgan
et al. 1998; Han et al. 1992).
As previously mentioned, in Europe, a systematic ﬁre model is missing, therefore an
approximation on the fuel models was realized, to improve our capacity of ﬁre forecasting
and, consequentially, of ﬁre-ﬁghting management. It introduces some vegetation param-
eters (relative moisture, time lag and combustion heat) that are essential for modelling the
forest ﬁre behaviour (Ager et al. 2011).
In the model, both static and dynamic entities, which are collected and produced during
the event (e.g. operating team locator or resources available), are included. These latter
entities allow the real-time data to be handled and the information to be uninterruptedly
updated. The tables are updated in the system through an SQL script, simulating the data
Fig. 3 The three objects categories for the external model development
Nat Hazards (2018) 90:623–637 627
provided by external data sources. A considered option for a real-time acquisition and
communication of the data could be the use of JSON ﬁles and protocols provided by the
external sources and employed sensors (Sriparasa 2013).
4 The standard data model extension and automatic schema generation:
the Model Driven Architecture (MDA) approach
To respond to requirements of interoperability and demands of integration among existing
systems and the developed system, the Model Driven Architecture (MDA) approach was
developed by OMG (Object Management Group) in 2001. MDA is enabled to development
through existing speciﬁcation such as UML and XMI (Cephas Consulting Corp 2006).
Indeed, the Model Driven Architecture (MDA) approach allows the automatic trans-
formation from an UML diagram to a conceptual data schema script (Lisboa-Filho et al.
2013). More speciﬁcally, it allows to translate an object-oriented UML model (Platform
Independent Model, PIM) into an object-relational database model in PostgreSQL/PostGIS
(Platform Speciﬁc Model, PSM).
Enterprise Architect (hereafter EA) by Sparx Systems is the Computer Aided Software
Engineering (CASE) tool used to support the GeoDB implementation by means of this
approach. This software product is able to automate the construction of a suitable UML
(Uniﬁed Modelling Language) diagram, permitting the reuse and extension of the already
available schemas, to effectively design the database and exchange it through applications.
Thus, to generate an INSPIRE-compliant UML class diagram with interoperable data
formats, the INSPIRE UML proﬁle and the INSPIRE repository are imported in EA. The
INSPIRE UML proﬁle is an XML ﬁle containing the deﬁnition of each element present in
the UML diagram, essential to interpret its meaning by humans or machines (Kutzner and
Using the INSPIRE Repository, INSPIRE classes (e.g. Metereological Data, Event-
Time, CadastralParcels, etc.), highlighted in the conceptual model (Fig. 5), were extracted
and imported into a new model. In order to extend the standard with some tailored features
for ﬁre-ﬁghting management, the procedure stated by the OGC as the best practice for
Fig. 4 Involved subject in ﬁre event stages
628 Nat Hazards (2018) 90:623–637
extending the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) data model CityGML was used (Van
den Brink et al. 2012).
The physical structure of the DB was realized in a semi-automatic way, according to the
steps shown in Fig. 6.
The UML Class Model was converted in an XSD (XML Schema Deﬁnition) ﬁle through
the speciﬁc Enterprise Architect tool. It is suitable for being used as GML application
schema. Then, the XSD was imported and validated with Altova XMLSpy software (or
Fig. 5 UML conceptual model including the INSPIRE-compliant entities and their extension for ﬁre-
Fig. 6 Procedure of implementation. The underlined passage (in grey) is the only manual step
Nat Hazards (2018) 90:623–637 629
equivalent open-source ones, such as XPad). During the validation process, the main
problem was the recognition of some data types. Indeed, the semantics, in XML format, are
different from INSPIRE. For example, the notation of text data type in XML schema is
xs:string, while in INSPIRE application schema, the same data type is deﬁned by Char-
acterString. The only solution, in this case, was the manual editing.
Besides validating the XML application schema, which structures XML data, a tool,
integrated in the Altova XMLSpy software, converts the XML schema in an SQL script
with a set of Data Deﬁnition Langauge (DDL) commands. This is a mandatory procedure
in order to generate a relational model-compliant DB in a common SQL-based DBMS
The XML editor (in this case, Altova XMLSpy) automatically generates an Structured
Query Language (SQL) script that can be exported and used to automatically build the
structure of a conceptual model-compliant SQL database in a DBMS software.
5 GIS realization and ﬁlling-in in open-source software
As speciﬁed in the introduction, open-source software tools were preferred. In addition to
the above motivations, open-source software offers a major interoperability (since they can
easily employ open formats). Furthermore, they permit the access to the code and to the
connected libraries for the customization of some tools.
DBMS PosgreSQL, with its spatial extension PostGIS and the graphical interface
PgAdmin III, was used to manage the system (PostgreSQL 2016). Moreover, a connection
with Q-GIS was realized, with purpose to see the data.
PgAdmin III and SQL language allow the implementation of triggers and other func-
tions useful for data querying and analysing, and the realization of views for users and
different uses, and, the semi-automatic ﬁlling-in of the data.
To ﬁll the database, the main difﬁculty is linked to the integration between national and
regional data structures and the data structure suggested by INSPIRE and used to create the
proposed GIS. Indeed, the provided data are often released as single shapeﬁles, and they
are not organized in a systematic database.
6 Test site and available data
In order to test the functionality of the proposed GIS, the data of Sardinia (Italy) are used.
In particular, the area of the Park of Sulcis, in the south-west of Sardinia, is considered.
For this speciﬁc area, several data were collected, as information about forests, fuel
models, hydrographical sources, roads and technological networks, command centre,
operating centres, teams, meteorological data, hotspots and alarms. Other data (e.g. event)
were not referred to real cases of forest ﬁres, but they were hypothesized for testing the
Each data set was therefore converted according to the designed database structure.
630 Nat Hazards (2018) 90:623–637
7 A speciﬁc TRIGGER function for early warning
In order to allow a real-time monitoring, a trigger system was developed and included in
the platform. The triggers are ad hoc procedures for the automatic manipulation (insertion,
modiﬁcation and deletion) of the information related to an event (Perry 1990). In this
study, a dedicated trigger devoted to initiate the sending of a ﬁrst operation team on the
ﬁeld when receiving the alarm is proposed (Fig. 7).
The trigger was built in SQL code. Analysing the single phases (Fig. 8): the event starts
due to an alarm (1). The alarm is given when the command centre is contacted, and some
data are communicated and inserted into the system, among which the ﬁre location
(geographic coordinates) (Fig. 9); the system requires some variables to be deﬁned as a
reference for performing the following steps (2). The database selects the Command Centre
in charge based on the ﬁeld ‘‘country’’ where the alarm is given (3). Through the com-
putation of minimum (linear) distance (‘‘min distance’’ function), developed based on
coordinates of the alarm, the nearest Operating Centre is selected (4). The Operating
Centre sends the ﬁrst Operating Team in ﬁeld (TIF0) (5).
In order to exploit the advantages of such a GIS, different queries can be performed
where the goal was the automatic calculation of the number of ﬁre-ﬁghters to be sent on the
ﬁeld. The variables considered by the automatic query are as follows: the class of ﬁre, the
teams that are already in the ﬁeld and the availability of further ﬁre-ﬁghters in the nearest
operating centres. A further parameter to be considered for calculating the number of
needed ﬁre-ﬁghters is the extension of the ﬁre. This can be assessed also in real time
through some recently proposed methods (Vivalda et al. 2017b). At present, it is an
automatic but independent task; however, future work could permit to ﬁll-in the needed
variables in the here proposed query with the ﬁre extension forecasting results. Moreover, a
network of physical sensors communicating with the built GIS could give real data about
the development and extension of the ﬁre.
Another interesting issue to be considered for determining the number of needed ﬁre-
ﬁghters would be the presence on the territory of some additional risks or elements that
could intensify or inﬂuencing the ﬁre development (e.g. gas stations, nuclear plants and
However, since the objective of this study was the development of an expeditious
procedure and tools for ﬁre management considering the whole Europe, these aspects,
dealing with a major detail in the analysis, will be further developed in future researches.
Fig. 7 Flow chart for developing alarm trigger
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The query is composed by two iterative processes (the two loops), which ﬁnish only
when the number of men in the ﬁeld is sufﬁcient to ﬁght the developing ﬁre (and this last
one is no more increasing) (Fig. 10).
When the trigger in Fig. 7creates a new team (TIF0) after the alarm, a new event in
EventRegistry is inserted and the HotSpot coordinates are registered.
This query is used when a new update on EventTime table arrives to the Command
Centre. Generally, rises of Rate of Spread (ROS) and intensity of ﬁre in EventTime
table produce a new request of ﬁre-ﬁghters (Andrews and Rothermel 1982). When the ROS
is constant or decreases the loop stops. To simplify the process, in this case, only the ROS
was considered. Therefore, the query takes into account the ROS of the Event and selects a
proper value of ‘‘class of Fire’’. The ﬁres are classiﬁed considering the control problems on
Fig. 8 Alarm trigger SQL code
632 Nat Hazards (2018) 90:623–637
each kind of ﬁre (Cesti 2002). As a consequence, it is possible to deﬁne the number of the
needed ﬁre-ﬁghters (NF).
Once the query is performed, the ﬁrst loop updates the class of ﬁre and checks if the
number of ﬁre-ﬁghters on the ﬁeld (TIFt) is sufﬁcient, compared with the needed ﬁre-
ﬁghters (NF). If the result is negative, the second loop starts, verifying if the ﬁre-ﬁghters
availability, in the nearest Operating Centres, allows to cover the request of support, and so
on considering the Operating Centres in order of their (linear) distance from the ﬁre. The
loop stops when the request of support is totally covered. The query, in this way, updates
Operating Centre Resources and allows to know who is on ﬁeld, how many men, and
when, they are involved in the ﬁre management. The time saved by means of such tool is
very precious in an emergency case.
In the paper, a standard-compliant and integrated GIS was proposed, as the core part of a
more complex system for ‘‘big ﬁre prevention and management’’, an SDI able to support
prevention, preparedness, emergency response and recovery phases of the ﬁre-ﬁghting
process. It can support early warning systems, the integrated management of historic data
and dynamic information, which is a critical challenge, especially when considering the
intensiﬁcation of ﬁre phenomena, because of the climate changes, and when it comes to the
so-called mega-ﬁre. It is aimed at ﬁlling the existing gap in the ﬁre-ﬁghting process, in the
integration of a very heterogeneous information (multiplicity of procedures, used data
formats, used data sources and so on). The cartographic and territorial data very often do
not comply with shared standards, so they suffer from a limited interoperability. This study
proposes a solution by means of the interoperability technologies, developed in a ‘‘smart’’
Fig. 9 Trigger in Q-GIS (the numbers refer to the trigger steps in Fig. 7, and the output of them is
underlined in the green squares): (1) input of the alarm position in the system, (4) selection of nearest
operating Centre based on ‘‘min distance’’ function, (5) creation of new operating team (TIF
). The TIF
position would be surveyed and mapped during the operations through navigation sensors communicating to
the system. The numbers refer to the SQL code described in Fig. 8
Nat Hazards (2018) 90:623–637 633
A great advantage of the proposed system is the use of the available reference standards
for structuring the data and the metadata referring both to the cartographic side (land shape,
land coverage and use, network and infrastructures, etc.) and to some thematic environ-
mental or monitoring data. This makes the system completely compatible and
importable by states having INSPIRE-compliant digital maps, as should be in the near
future, for states having adopted the INSPIRE Directive (the whole Europe). Being the
INSPIRE data model structured in form of a very general and application-independent
ontology, it could be probably exported to further regions with effective results.
Fig. 10 Schema of the query workﬂow. The SQL code of the query is shared at the link http://areeweb.
634 Nat Hazards (2018) 90:623–637
Furthermore, the inclusion of dynamic data, historic data registry and similar information
can be an effective support to advanced analysis, to be performed directly in the GIS
Another contribution of the presented study is the effort to improve the automaticity in
the conversion of the (in this case extended) conceptual model into the internal model. In
this way, during the transformation from an object-oriented UML class diagram to the
object-relational PostgreSQL/PostGIS database, the data formats and semantics deﬁned by
INSPIRE are preserved. A modelling phase in Enterprise Architect was employed for
deﬁning the extension, which is already afﬁrmed practice in the community. On the other
hand, while the use of an MDA approach is probably afﬁrmed in the informatics ﬁeld, for
geomatics and cartography management goals, it has to be reﬁned and tested. Although
being an essential part of the generation of the now unavoidably standard-compliant
geodatabases, an optimized procedure implementing is not fully integrated in the software
Finally, an innovation of the system is linked to the speciﬁc application ﬁeld. The more
critical limit is the lack of integrated and harmonized procedures, solutions and data for
common analysis and optimized management of the entire command chain in interventions
for ﬁre-ﬁghting. In the functioning of the GIS, a solution was hypothesized considering a
unique control centre holding the task of coordination and management, and distributing
responsibilities and mission instructions to decentred bases, able to act. A more deﬁnitive
solution should be obviously proposed by the entities directly involved in the ﬁre-ﬁghting
A great part of the system was based on the open-source system, but some tools are only
available under shareware software, which still limits sometimes the full understanding of
In future work, the proposed platform should be tested in collaboration with the actual
operators intervening in the ﬁre-ﬁghting. Moreover, the implementation of automatic
procedures should be improved. A fundamental part of such automatic procedures should
regard the ﬁre alarm, which could be given by automatic physical sensors positioned in
especially vulnerable areas (as evaluated by experts). In this way, an effective sensor
network architecture, following the Internet of Thing paradigm, could be exploited and
integrated in the proposed tool (Gubbi et al. 2013; Arco et al. 2016). A fundamental
development will be the publication of such system as webGIS or as part of a more
Acknowledgements The study was realized on the themes treated in the European project AF3 (Advanced
Forest Fire Fighting—www.af3project.eu). The authors would like to thank the CVVFF of Cagliari for their
availability and data sharing. Furthermore, they thank Dr. Raffaella Marzano from University of Torino for
her help about fuel model and forest type and Dr. Cesti for his availability.
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