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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Garden structure is critical for building survival in northern forest fires-An analysis using large Swedish wildfires

Plathner, Frida Vermina; Sjostrom, Johan; Granstrom, Anders


Despite increasing concern over wildfires in Fennoscandia, there are essentially no studies on the survivability of buildings within the wildland-urban interface of this region. We make use of four recent large-scale fires in Sweden to elucidate which factors are important for survival, using multiple logistic regression analysis of data collected at the sites. We obtained data on 187 buildings within the fire perimeters, nearly all with wood paneling and tile- or sheet metal roofing. 35 % of the buildings were lost or badly damaged. Results indicate that most buildings were approached by relatively low-intensity fire and that ignition primarily occurred through direct flame contact. The most important factor for survivability was the presence of a maintained lawn. The second most important was that no flammable material was present close to the building facade. Further, fire intensity often decreased close to buildings due to a larger portion of deciduous trees around gardens than in the surrounding forest. These factors were more important than specific features of the building itself, reflecting that the majority of buildings have combustible wooden facades. Our results suggest that the greatest potential for increasing building safety in the Swedish WUI is to keep the area immediately surrounding the building (similar to 5 m) free from tree litter and other flammable material. Also, since fire intensities are generally low, buildings can in most cases be defended with simple tools without compromising personal safety.


Wildfire; Boreal; Wildland-urban interface; Scandinavia; Building loss

Published in

Safety Science
2023, Volume: 157, article number: 105928
Publisher: ELSEVIER

    Associated SLU-program

    SLU Forest Damage Center

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Architectural Engineering

    Publication identifier


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