A Comparison between spatial econometric models and random forest for modeling fire occurrence

Chao Song, Mei Po Kwan, Weiguo Song, Jiping Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fire occurrence, which is examined in terms of fire density (number of fire/km2) in this paper, has a close correlation with multiple spatiotemporal factors that include environmental, physical, and other socioeconomic predictors. Spatial autocorrelation exists widely and should be considered seriously for modeling the occurrence of fire in urban areas. Therefore, spatial econometric models (SE) were employed for modeling fire occurrence accordingly. Moreover, Random Forest (RF), which can manage the nonlinear correlation between predictors and shows steady predictive ability, was adopted. The performance of RF and SE models is discussed. Based on historical fire records of Hefei City as a case study in China, the results indicate that SE models have better predictive ability and among which the spatial autocorrelation model (SAC) is the best. Road density influences fire occurrence the most for SAC, while network distance to fire stations is the most important predictor for RF; they are selected in both models. Semivariograms are employed to explore their abilities to explain the spatial structure of fire occurrence, and the result shows that SAC works much better than RF.We give a further explanation for the generation of residuals between fire density and the common predictors in both models. Therefore, decision makers can make use of our conclusions to manage fire safety at the city scale.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number819
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 14 2017


  • Autocorrelation
  • Fire risk
  • Random Forest
  • Residuals
  • Spatial econometric models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Building and Construction
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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