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MAP: The Swiss regions in danger of wildfires and the measures in place to avoid them

Severe drought and extreme heat are putting Switzerland in danger of forest fires. Here are the worst areas and what measures are in place in each.

MAP: The Swiss regions in danger of wildfires and the measures in place to avoid them
A Swiss Air Force Super Puma helicopter drops water on a forest fire on sunrise (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP)

As Switzerland faces heatwaves with extremely high temperatures and long periods without rain, there is an increasing risk of forest fires.

The Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) has a map of the places where the risk of forest fires is high – there is at least a considerable danger in the entire country, with no canton on a lower level than three (out of five).

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

READ ALSO: How 2022 compares to Europe’s hottest summers

In the Wallis canton, the following areas have the highest level of “very high danger”: Vinn, Chablais, Fully, Nikolai, Riddes, Saas, Simplon north, Sion-Sierre, St. Maurice, Südrampe, and Vispertal. The rest of the canton is on “great danger” (level four) alert.

Here is a map of the current danger situation in Switzerland:

What are the measures currently in place?

Due to the increased risk, the cantons have put in place several measures to try and avoid forest fires, according to the Federal Office for the Environment.

The areas with a conditional ban on fires (fires are only allowed in permanent campfire sites, and due caution is to be exercised in all cases) are Nidwald, Obwald, and Zoug.

The areas with an absolute ban on fires in the forest and the proximity of the forest are Appenzell Inner-Rhodes, Appenzell Outer-Rhodes, Argovia, Basle-City, Basle-Country, Glarus, Jura, Lucerne, Neuchâtel, Schaffhouse, Schwytz, Soleure, St. Gall, Thurgovia, Uri, Zurich.

The areas with an absolute ban on fires in the open are Berne, Friburg, Geneva, Grisons, Ticino, Vaud, and Wallis.

What are the recommendations in case of a forest fire?

“While a forest fire is burning, avoid any kind of panic, act calmly and exercise good judgment”, the FOEN says.

It adds: “Follow the sequence: raise the alarm – rescue – extinguish. Fires outdoors develop and behave differently from fires in enclosed spaces. So do not try to be a hero; follow the instructions of local fire service and forestry workers.”

You should report forest fires immediately by calling 118 (fire service) and warn people that a fire might endanger them. Then, the office for the environment says you should “vacate the scene of the fire” and follow the instructions of the local fire service and forestry service.

Following a forest fire, any damage should be assessed and reported so that it can be removed or repaired as soon as possible.

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WILDFIRES

Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: EU

Europe's blistering summer may not be over yet, but 2022 is already breaking records, with nearly 660,000 hectares ravaged since January, according to the EU's satellite monitoring service.

Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: EU

And while countries on the Mediterranean have normally been the main seats of fires in Europe, this year, other countries are also suffering heavily.

Fires this year have forced people to flee their homes, destroyed buildings and burned forests in EU countries, including Austria, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Some 659,541 hectares (1.6 million acres) have been destroyed so far, data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) showed, setting a record at this point in the year since data collection began in 2006.

Europe has suffered a series of heatwaves, forest fires and historic drought that experts say are being driven by human-induced climate change.

They warn more frequent and longer heatwaves are on the way.

The worst-affected country has been Spain, where fire has destroyed 244,924 hectares, according to EFFIS data.

The EFFIS uses satellite data from the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

The data comes after CAMS said Friday that 2022 was a record year for wildfire activity in southwestern Europe and warned that a large proportion of western Europe was now in “extreme fire danger”.

“2022 is already a record year, just below 2017,” EFFIS coordinator Jesus San-Miguel said. In 2017, 420,913 hectares had burned by August 13, rising to 988,087 hectares by the end of the year.

“The situation in terms of drought and extremely high temperatures has affected all of Europe this year and the overall situation in the region is worrying, while we are still in the middle of the fire season,” he said.

Since 2010, there had been a trend towards more fires in central and northern Europe, with fires in countries that “normally do not experience fires in their territory”, he added.

“The overall fire season in the EU is really driven mainly by countries in the Mediterranean region, except in years like this one, in which fires also happen in central and northern regions,” he added.

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