Why does fire burn uphill

Controlled burning: Here's how you go about it

Bispingen (NI) - fire can be used to prevent wildfires. This is how it is done worldwide. But so far, controlled burning has only rarely been used in Germany. There are some risks involved in doing this. Therefore, appropriately trained and experienced firefighters must always be present. It doesn't work without practical experience! We explain step by step what to look for when checkingattention must be paid to the burning.

  1. Don't forget to register

The responsible control centers, the municipalities and the surrounding fire brigades must be informed in good time of every fire. The agreement with the responsible nature conservation authorities must be established.

  1. Safety is paramount

Explore possibilities of retreat, determine escape routes and safety zones, keep water and forces in reserve, turn off guards / observers, agree on withdrawal signals, define communication channels, form mixed teams of experienced and less experienced personnel.



  1. Wear suitable protective clothing

Only those who wear protective clothing are protected from the heat and flying sparks. Single-layer fire protection clothing, a light helmet according to EN 16471, visor or protective goggles, flame protection hood, triangular cloth as a face mask, protective gloves and signal whistle are recommended.

  1. Explore terrain

What vegetation is there? What is the soil like? What is the topography of the area? These questions must be clarified before ignition.

  1. Pay attention to the weather

Ideally, it is burned in late autumn or in winter. Burning is prohibited after February 28th. The sun should already have removed the natural moisture on the burning day. It can't be too windy. Burn only in daylight.

  1. Put on protective strips

A protective strip at least 4 meters wide must be created around the area to be burned - the fire should stop here by itself - or be available (paths, streets, watercourses, rocks). The protective strip must not contain any flammable material. It is typically created with agricultural machines (plowing, mowing) or by hand (cutting, sawing, chopping). It can also be burned free by experienced workers. It is advisable to also water the protective strip.

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  1. Discuss the procedure

All forces deployed must know the procedure, the division of the teams and their respective tasks before the start of the assignment. For this purpose, the head of operations determines the anchor point (starting point of the burning), flanks and front.

  1. Less is more

Never set fire to large areas at the same time. The burning surfaces must be manageable with the available forces. Allow for sudden expansion of the fire, for example due to wind.

  1. Burn downhill

If the terrain is hilly or mountainous, always burn in the direction of the valley / lowland. Uphill, the flame fronts can develop too great a dynamic and expand too quickly.

  1. Always go with the wind

So the wind drives the flames (and thus also the heat radiation) in front of the forces and the comrades are not exposed to the smoke from the fire. In addition, the view of the incident site is unobstructed.

  1. Burning is teamwork

All forms of fighting vegetation fires (including controlled burning) are teamwork. The forces work side by side - at defined intervals. Nobody works alone at one point! Communication between the teams and every team member must be ensured at all times.

  1. Don't forget the follow-up check

After the burning has ended, the entire area must be walked over again and checked for possible embers. The humus layer should be removed on a random basis.

In the January 2019 edition of the fire brigade magazine, we report in detail about the training in controlled burning in the Lüneburg Heath. The magazine can be conveniently ordered here, as a printed version or as a download.