Estimating fire following earthquake risk for Wellington City, New Zealand




Fire following earthquake (FFE) is a significant hazard in urban areas subject to high seismicity. Wellington City has many characteristics that make it susceptible to ignitions and fire spread. These include proximity to major active faults, closely spaced timber-clad buildings, vulnerable water and gas infrastructure, frequent high winds and challenging access for emergency services. We modelled the ignitions, fire spread and suppression for five earthquake sources. Uncertainty in ground motions, the number and location of ignitions, weather conditions and firefighting capacity were accounted for. The mean loss per burn zone (area burnt due to ignition and fire spread) is $46m without fire suppression, indicating the potential property damage avoided by controlling the fire spread. The mean total loss for earthquake scenarios ranges from $0.28b for the Wairau Fault through to $3.17b for a Hikurangi Subduction Zone scenario, including the influence of fire suppression. Wind speed has a strong influence on the potential losses for each simulation and is a more significant factor than the number of ignitions for evaluating losses. Areas in Wellington City of relatively high risk are identified, which may inform risk mitigation strategies. The models may be applied to other urban areas.


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How to Cite

Scheele, F., Lukovic, B., Moratalla, J., Dunant, A., & Horspool, N. (2022). Estimating fire following earthquake risk for Wellington City, New Zealand. Bulletin of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering, 55(4), 241–256.