Responsibilities of the federal authorities in the area of forest fires

The federal authorities are active in a large number of areas with a view to ensuring that the challenges posed by forest fires can be overcome in future. They develop plans and strategies, and provide information and warnings.

Plans and strategies

Even minor fires can impair the protective function of the forest. Due to climate change, weather conditions may be expected to arise that could cause an increase in forest fire danger. The FOEN develops plans and strategies for this eventuality in cooperation with the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) and the cantons.

Information

Working in cooperation with the cantons, the FOEN informs the authorities and population about the importance of forest conservation and the state of the forests. As part of its warning mission, the FOEN provides information about measures implemented by the cantons to prevent forest fires and avoid forest damage.

Forest fire warnings

With the enactment of the revised Alarm Ordinance (AlarmO), the FOEN became responsible for forest fire prevention at federal level in cooperation with the cantons. If a tense situation arises at national level, the FOEN is authorised to issue warnings. The cantons are responsible for event response and management. The FOEN supports affected cantons during exceptional situations.

Forest fire danger - Overview of danger locations and measures implemented in the cantons and Principality of Liechtenstein.

Waldbrandgefahr - Kein Feuer machen! (Forest fire danger – Do not light fires!) Aluminium warning sign (German, French, Italian) format A4. 2000

Achtung - Attention - Attenzione  - Blue aluminium forest fire warning sign – (German, French, Italian) format A4. 2000

Technical measures for preventing fires

The federal authorities support technical installations for the prevention of forest fires, for example fire water reservoirs, hydrant networks and barriers that can be used to dam streams rapidly.

Support after a forest fire

The FOEN can provide support to the cantons for reforestation and forest protection structures in the protective forest area.

Forest fire statistics

The number, areas affected by and causes of forest fires are recorded annually in the forest fire statistics. The WSL operates a Switzerland-wide forest fire database on behalf of the FOEN. This database provides important information for the management of forest fires. The data are also used for national and international reporting, e.g. to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). In addition, the FOEN ensures the cooperation with the European Commission’s Forest Fire Expert Group.

Eidg. Forschungsanstalt für Wald, Schnee und Landschaft (WSL): Swissfire

The FOEN also publishes the annual forest and wood statistical yearbook, which also contains information about forest fires.

Jahrbuch Wald und Holz 2011 – Chapter 2 (available in German and French)