Forest Fire Risks to Cultural Heritage

When it comes to assess the risks of fire to Cultural Resources buildings or artefacts, normally they are related to buildings.  In a consistently smaller number of cases, the scenario is related to a forest or a vegetation fire.

The technical literature concerned with the protection of cultural heritage from the risks of fire rarely takes this issue into account. One of the few documents that fully addresses this aspect is the Wildland Fire report in Ecosystems Effects of Fire on Cultural Resources and Archeology, published by the United States Department of Agricolture. Continue reading “Forest Fire Risks to Cultural Heritage”

Castle Destroyed by Vegetation Fire

2On 10 March 2012, the castle of Krasna Horka in Slovak Republic caught fire, allegedly due to burning of dry grass by two children who were trying to light cigarettes.
The roof of the castle, the exposition in the Gothic palace and the bell tower were completely destroyed. The heat melted down three bells from the bell tower. The building sustained extensive damage. Initially, it was thought that many of its historic artefacts were destroyed. The vast majority of exhibits remained undamaged and only the upper part of the castle (including collections) was destroyed. The Slovak National Museum stated that 90% of the collections were undamaged.
According to the firemen who intervened during the incident, the fire started as a consequence of incautious burning of dry grass. On 11 March 2012, the police spokesman of the Košice region stated that “the grass caught fire after two boys (aged 11 and 12) attempted to light up a cigarette. Following that, the fire spread and reached the castle

Cultural Heritage and Forest Fires

picture taken from Kosmas Dimitropoulos , Kovanc Köse, Nikos Grammalidis, and Enis Cetin paper
picture taken from Kosmas Dimitropoulos , Kovanc Köse, Nikos Grammalidis, and Enis Cetin paper

Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing is the art, science, and technology of obtaining reliable information from noncontact imaging and other sensor systems about the Earth and its environment, and other physical objects and processes through recording, measuring, analyzing and representation.

The International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, devoted to the development of international cooperation for the advancement of photogrammetry and remote sensing and their applications.

The society has published on its website among other conference proceedings the paper concerning “fire detection, and 3D fire propagation estimation for the protection of cultural heritage areas“.

In the abstract of the paper the Authors (Kosmas Dimitropoulos, Kovanc Köse, Nikos Grammalidis, and Enis Cetin) statesthat  beyond taking precautionary measures to avoid a forest fire, early warning and immediate response to a fire breakout are the only ways to avoid great losses and environmental and cultural heritage damages. To this end, this paper aims to present a computer vision based algorithm for wildfire detection and a 3D fire propagation estimation system. The main detection algorithm is composed of four sub-algorithms detecting:

  • (i) slow moving objects,
  • (ii) smoke-coloured regions,
  • (iii) rising regions,
  • (iv) shadow regions.

After detecting a wildfire, the main focus should be the estimation of its propagation direction and speed. If the model of the vegetation and other important parameters like wind speed, slope, aspect of the ground surface, etc. are known; the propagation of fire can be estimated. This propagation can then be visualized in any 3D-GIS environment that supports KML files.

In the conclusions, the Authors state that “Early warning and immediate response to a fire breakout are the only ways to avoid great losses and environmental and cultural heritage damages. Hence, the most important goals in fire surveillance are quick and reliable detection and localization of the fire. It is much easier to suppress a fire when the starting location is known, and while it is in its early stages. Information about the progress of fire is also highly valuable for managing the fire during all its stages. Based on this information, the fire fighting staff can be guided on target to block the fire before it reaches cultural heritage sites and to suppress it quickly by utilizing the required fire fighting equipment and vehicles.

Royal Palaces of Abomey (Benin) damaged by a vegetation fire

On 21 January 2009 the Royal Palaces of Abomey (Benin) have damaged by a fire  which destroyed some buildings. In particular, the fire seems to have been caused by a brushfire.

The flames have consumed the straw roof and the framework of six buildings (which enclosed two temples to Agasu, the tombs of King Agonglo, King Ghezo, and each king’s 41 wives). The fire run fastly due to the strong winds.

Even if the alarm has been raised and the arrival of help has been immediate, when the rescuers arrived the buildings were engulfed in flames.

The restoration will include drying the water damage and the installation of fire hydrants.