In October 2017, an extreme wildfire outbreak in the NW of the Iberian Peninsula burned thousands of hectares, resulting in human deaths and important economic damage. This paper provides a first comprehensive assessment of the exposure of the local communities in the Spanish region of Galicia, where forestlands routinely experience fire outbreaks, as the one that occurred in 14th, 15th and 16th October with more than two hundred fire incidents. We delimitate the wildfire perimeters, characterize the area burned in regards to vegetation characteristics, evaluate the affected wildland-urban interface (WUI), and quantify the population and buildings exposed to wildfires. The burned area was found to be unevenly distributed, concentrated in the south of the region, and in municipalities with nearly half of their lands under WUI. This resulted in a high level of exposure in the affected lands. We estimated that 51 communities were inside fire perimeters. Moreover, 873 communities with more than 87,000 people residing on them, were at a close distance of less than 1 km away. This study demonstrates the importance of understanding extreme wildfire events and their potential impacts which can guide how best communities can respond to them. The high number of population exposed to the studied event shows the necessity of integrating land-use planning with wildfire risk prevention and preparedness.
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- wildfire exposure
- wildland-urban interface
- wildfire severity