Fully automated countrywide monitoring of fuel break maintenance operations

Valentine Aubard, João E. Pereira-Pires, Manuel L. Campagnolo, José M. C. Pereira, André Mora, João M. N. Silva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
51 Downloads (Pure)


Fuel break (FB) networks are strategic locations for fire control and suppression. In order to be effective for wildfire control, they need to be maintained through regular interventions to reduce fuel loads. In this paper, we describe a monitoring system relying on Earth observations to detect fuel reduction inside the FB network being implemented in Portugal. Two fast automated pixel-based methodologies for monthly monitoring of fuel removals in FB are developed and compared. The first method (M1) is a classical supervised classification using the difference and postdisturbance image of monthly image composites. To take into account the impact of different land cover and phenology in the detection of fuel treatments, a second method (M2) based on an innovative statistical change detection approach was developed. M2 explores time series of vegetation indices and does not require training data or user-defined thresholds. The two algorithms were applied to Sentinel-2 10 m bands and fully processed in the cloud-based platform Google Earth Engine. Overall, the unsupervised M2, which is based on a Welch t-test of two moving window averages, gives better results than the supervised M1 and is suitable for an automated countrywide fuel treatment detection. For both methods, two vegetation indices, the Modified Excess of Green and the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, were compared and exhibited similar performances.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2879
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sept 2020


  • Change detection
  • Fuel load
  • Remote sensing
  • Sentinel-2
  • Time series
  • Vegetation monitoring
  • Wildfire prevention


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