Germany Germany Germany Germany

Forest fires Germany


In Germany in the year of the heat wave of 2003, the area of burnt forest was by 25% larger than the average across 1991-2002, namely 1315 ha. In 1992 the largest area of burnt forest since 1990 was registered, with 4908 ha and an estimated damage of 12.8 million €. In the “record summer” of 2003 the absolute maximum air temperature reached 39.1ºC, and the maximum of precipitation deficiency was in Northeast Germany, where stand conditions and plantation types (sandy soils, pine stands) in general cause maximum forest fire risk (1).

Almost every fire starts on the ground – it is therefore meaningful that since the last few decades undergrowth of grasses in forests is increasing and favouring two grass species that rank very highly on the scale of inflammabilty, namely wood small-reed (Calamagrostis epigejos) and wavy hair-grass (Deschampsia flexuosa). Furthermore, the grass layer contributes to increased evaporation and therefore to further desiccation. Reasons for increasing grass layer are thought to be on the one hand atmospheric nitrogen deposition and acidification, and on the other hand climate warming in combination with dryer summers. Therefore, dry summers increase the risk of forest fires not only in the year itself, but also in the following years (1).

All regions of Germany show increased fires risk, with the exception of the Alps, the alpine upland, and the coastal regions. Arid coniferous forests on sandy soils in the North and Northeast of Germany that exhibited a relatively high risk already in 1990 are particularly impacted (2).

Adaptation strategies

Most states stress that preventive measures are already established. Forest fires have been seen as an important risk for a long time, and the technical measures in place are rated as sufficient. Adaptation therefore currently concerns only the improvement of systems that are already in place (2).

Some experts use the period of extreme drought of 2003 as a reference value, i.e. they expect an increasing frequency of similar events in future. The planning of adaptation measures is adapted accordingly. An important trend in recent years took place in technological development. The surveillance of forests by video- and infrared-techniques, as well as the increasing distribution of mobile phones facilitates detection of and warning about fires already in the early stage (2).


The references below are cited in full in a separate map 'References'. Please click here if you are looking for the full references for Germany.

  1. Anders et al. (2004), in: Zebisch et al. (2005)
  2. Zebisch et al. (2005)