Identifying Risk Areas of Fire Service Delayed Response
Identifying Risk Areas of Fire Service Delayed Response

By Veranika Rechits, Yevhen Kyslomed, and Misha Malikin

Using open data to explore and optimize fire departments service areas

A city’s ability to protect citizens from both natural and human-made emergencies is essential and critical to protecting life and property. One of the standard indicators of a city’s preparedness for fires is the number of firefighters per 100,000 population. But optimizing the location of fire departments is an equally important factor that can make the difference between life and death, salvation and destruction.

Fire stations are headquarters for a service performed away from the site. It means one properly located firehouse provides more protection than several poorly located ones. Kontur uses its geospatial platform’s capabilities to provide insights on potential fire service scarcity and optimal fire department locations.

Why we do it

It is important for governments and municipal authorities to properly locate fire stations and determine where they are lacking coverage. Human communities expand further into forests and grasslands every year, creating areas of intermediate population density called the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI). Most human-caused accidental fires occur in these WUI areas, where flammable vegetation meets residential developments.

As a result of global warming, fire seasons are now averaging two months longer than the historic norm globally. Areas burned due to wildfires annually are record-breaking. With increasing demands, it is vital for the fire service to utilize the most advanced geospatial technology to maximize the coverage and minimize the response time.

How we do it

How to make sure a city has enough fire station capacity for safe functioning? We produced a map called Kontur Fire Service Scarcity Risk to perform such an analysis. The map is based on data from OpenStreetMap and shows the areas of a city that are most likely to experience a lack of fire trucks or fire stations. This kind of information is useful to convince the city authorities that the number of fire trucks/stations they have is not adequate for the city’s needs.

Population Density

Kontur Population is used as the baseline dataset for our analysis. When planning fire services, it is important to know the total population and its distribution within a city. Data on the population of the area surrounding the city is also important since the fringe areas may become part of the city.

Kontur Population is built using H3 hexagons. The Hexagonal Hierarchical Spatial Index is used because hexagons have only one distance between a hexagon centerpoint and its neighbors’. This property greatly simplifies performing analysis and smoothing over gradients.

Fire Departments Locations

We use data about fire station locations ingested from OpenStreetMap. There are more than 124,000 of them in OSM as of June 2022.

Determining Service Areas

To determine the service area of fire stations we build an isodistance with a 30 km radius from each of them. To do so we extract existing car-drivable roads from OpenStreetMap and use the PgRouting router. We calculate the distances in a straight line for areas outside of the 30-kilometer zone. Then we determine the maximum distance to the nearest fire station within the boundaries of hexagons at resolution 8 (area less than 1 km²). We compute the distances for hexagons that have roads and/or populations.

In the next step, we create a two-dimensional map that visualizes both distances to the fire station and population density. We defined a threshold distance from fire stations of 0-3, 3-10, and more than 10 kilometers to determine the coverage areas of each fire station.

The map gives a clear representation of areas sufficiently covered with fire stations. For areas identified as underserviced, you need to make sure the data is complete in OpenStreetMap. Anyone can add data there to make it better for free. For a fee, we can do it for you.


Risk management, preparedness, and mitigation have become more crucial than ever with the challenges facing fire service nowadays. The placement of fire stations and equipment has a dramatic impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of services provided by the fire department.

Kontur Fire Service Scarcity Risk map helps indicate the lack of fire stations. We produce other risk maps too. A similar map exists for healthcare facilities and can be replicated for other urban services as well. Contact us if you need a custom solution to achieve your goal.


Kontur Fire Service Scarcity Risk – a map showing the areas that are most likely to experience a lack of fire trucks or fire stations.

Kontur Population – global population density dataset with counts at 400m resolution. If you need some custom processing or a higher resolution version of this dataset contact us.

Global Fires – an interactive map by Kontur visualizing 13 months of wildfires globally.

OpenStreetMap – a collaborative project to create a free editable geographic database of the world.