Fires in urban areas can cause significant economic, physical and psychological damage. Despite this, there has been a comparative lack of research into the spatial and temporal analysis of fire incidence in urban contexts. In this paper, we redress this gap through an exploration of the association of fire incidence to weather, calendar events and socio-economic characteristics in South-East Queensland, Australia using innovative technique termed the quad plot. Analysing trends in five fire incident types, including malicious false alarms (hoax calls), residential buildings, secondary (outdoor), vehicle and suspicious fires, results suggest that risk associated with all is greatly increased during school holidays and during long weekends. For all fire types the lowest risk of incidence was found to occur between one and six a.m. It was also found that there was a higher fire incidence in socially disadvantaged neighbourhoods and there was some evidence to suggest that there may be a compounding impact of high temperatures in such areas. We suggest that these findings may be used to guide the operations of fire services through spatial and temporal targeting to better utilise finite resources, help mitigate risk and reduce casualties.
Published: June 2011