Causes of forest fires


Most meadow and forest fires in Switzerland are caused by human activities and they are often the result of careless behaviour. In summer months, forest fires are also caused by lightning, particularly in the Southern Alps and, increasingly also in recent years, in the Alpine region.

Natural causes

  • Lightning strikes

Deliberate fire-setting

  • Arson


  • Insufficiently extinguished campfires
  • Discarded smoking products etc.
  • Playing with fire
  • Forestry and agriculture (including burning of wood residues and straw, flying sparks from machinery)
  • Military (target practice)

Technical causes

  • Railways (including flying sparks from overhead lines and hot brake pads)
  • Electrical lines (including ignition of branches)
  • Technical equipment (e.g. hot catalytic converters in parked cars)

Particular risk factors

  • Increased presence of people and machinery (leisure seekers, passers-by, forestry workers)
  • Forests and grassland after winters with little snowfall
  • Frequent periods of dry weather or dry winds (e.g. Foehn wind)
  • Dry forest locations with slow decomposition of branch material (coniferous forests, chestnut forests)
  • High proportion of softwood in windthrow areas