More than half of all forest fires are caused by people, often through careless actions. Therefore continual targeted public education is needed in areas with a high forest fire risk to prevent forest fires.
Different target groups, for example kindergartens, schools, businesses and tourists, must be spoken to. It is advisable to regularly analyse forest fire statistics in terms of the cause of the fire. If for example fires are predominantly caused through agricultural activities, then the focus must be on the farming group. If instead recreationists are the main triggers, then targeted public education must be directed there. It is important that hazard awareness is raised again and again with the public and with staff involved in forest protection.
The topics which are the focus of public relations and education are:
- Necessity of forest protection
- Danger for forests through fire
- Proper behaviour after detecting a forest fire
- Richtiges Verhalten beim Erkennen von Waldbränden
- How to avoid a forest fire (Code of behaviour)
The media landscape is diverse and fast moving. It is important to have a good relationship with media representatives. Press releases, press site visits, press conferences to certain events as well as handing out reports, pictures or giving interviews allows topics to be controlled from the forestry side. Informing the public about the current forest fire risk is achieved by means of radio, television, the press and on-site notices. In Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Brandenburg, the actual forest fire risk level is also published on the homepages of the state forest enterprise and the Ministry for Agriculture, Environment and Consumer Protection.
Kindergartens and schools
Education starts with the very young. Only what people know and value will be of interest to them in the future. Small children are not enthused by dry speeches. However, approaching the subject in a playful and enquiring manner benefits everyone. Teachers or educators should be approached directly and interesting, age group specific programmes should be offered on site in the forest or at school (e.g. forest games).
Recreationists and Tourists
Notice or information boards at the start of heavily used forest areas and tracks and in car parks are used to inform visitors on site. Leaflets can similarly be used as information sources. However, here too a direct connection with forest visitors is important. During specialised excursions but also during normal forest tours the subject of forest fires can be taken up and discussed. A uniform image with forest fire information helps with the recognition and hence understanding of the issue. The squirrel with its bushy, flame-like tail is a well known forest fire symbol which has been used on notification and warning signs in the new federal states since the 1960s.
Communities, Businesses, Farmers
Regular, recurring information, courses or exercises keep the subject at the forefront of people’s minds and keep the participants in contact with each other. If all participants know each other before a fire event, then they will work more cooperatively during a fire.