Is a fire in the forest allowed in Germany?

Open fire is forbidden in the forest. If you ignite a fire, nonetheless, you must anticipate fines of up to €100,000 or imprisonment.

from Martin Gebhardt | Laws | reading time 4 Min
Updated on 21 February 2024 93.605 views 94% found this guide helpful
Is a fire in the forest allowed in Germany?

Martin Gebhardt

From Martin Gebhardt. Check out my “About me” page.

👉 The key facts from this guide

  • Open fire in the forest is generally prohibited in Germany. Violators can be fined up to 100,000 € or even face imprisonment.
  • Exceptions apply to forest owners, individuals employed by the forest owner, hunters, or beekeepers.
  • The specific legal regulations regarding making fires in the forest are determined by each federal state.
  • To obtain permission for a fire in the forest, you must contact the respective municipal administration or the responsible forestry office.
  • In the forest, you may make a fire only on official, established fire sites. However, a burning fire must be constantly monitored, and sufficient extinguishing agents must be available.
  • Fire is generally prohibited everywhere in Germany, except on your private property. And even then, you must adhere to rules.

You are in a german forest and a campfire is needed. But what is the legal situation in Germany?

So, is a fire allowed in the german forest?

Open fires are prohibited in Germany's forests. If you do start a fire, you can expect fines of up to €100,000. If the fire causes a forest fire, the Criminal Code even provides for imprisonment.

For example, the state of Brandenburg imposes fines of up to €100,000 if you start a fire.

However, there are ways to make an open fire in the forest. I would like to go into more detail on this.

What is an open fire?

An open fire is a fire where a flame is visible.

This is for example a campfire or barbecue fire as well as a camping stove or a hobo stove.

Matches, candles, lanterns, torches, and tea lights are also considered open fire. Furthermore, smoking is prohibited in many forests from March 1st to October 31st.

Tip: Also read my book "The Fire Primer" and become an expert in making fire.

Who is allowed to light a fire in a german forest

Exceptions apply to forest owners or to individuals employed by the forest owner.

Furthermore, hunters or beekeepers are allowed to start a fire in a german forest.

Where can you find the laws regarding making fires in the forest?

The exact legal situation is regulated by the respective federal state.

There is, among other things, the "Bavarian Forest Act" in Bavaria, and in Berlin or NRW there is the "State Forest Act".

If you need the exact law for your federal state, you will now find a list of all federal states here.

In these laws, you will find the regulations regarding fire and the corresponding fines for non-compliance.

How do I get permission to make a fire in Germany?

For this, you need to contact the respective municipal administration. There you will find the appropriate forestry office. Now you submit your application for making a fire. You will most likely need to provide precise information about the time and location.

The forestry office also wants to know who is making the fire. Therefore, you have to provide information about yourself. Furthermore, the reason for your inquiry is also important.

If you're planning to propose, make sure to carefully plan everything beforehand.

It's different for forests that are privately owned. There you have to contact the owner of the forest directly.

Where am I allowed to make a fire in the german forest?

In the forest, you are allowed to make a fire at official, established fireplaces. However, a burning fire must be constantly monitored. Additionally, you must provide sufficient extinguishing agents. This can be water, soil, or sand.

Make sure to use an official fire pit. You can recognize it by signs or research it online beforehand.

official fire pit
official fire pit

Is fire only prohibited in the german forest?

No, fire is basically prohibited everywhere in Germany.

Except on your private property. And even then, you have to follow rules.

Even if you are not in the forest, you are not allowed to simply make a fire. Outside of the forest, you will mainly find areas that are either owned by the community or by private individuals. And there it applies: You must ask the owner for permission.

You are not allowed to make a fire on someone else's property. And this includes a regular meadow. The same applies to rivers and lakes. Making a fire on their banks is also prohibited.

Make a fire on your private property, such as in the garden

First, you have to make sure to keep a distance of at least 100 meters from the forest border.

If a large fire is created to burn plant waste, this is only conditionally allowed. Therefore, inquire beforehand with your responsible authority. Because if there is a disposal option, burning waste is illegal.

Furthermore, you must not disturb your neighbors. This includes smells, smoke, as well as noise. Especially when burning wood, an annoying smoke often arises. You must avoid this.

Can you make a fire in your german forest as a forest owner?

If you are a forest owner, you are allowed to make a fire.

The only restriction is usually the forest fire danger level. From level 3 or 4 onwards, it is also not allowed for you as a forest owner to start a fire.

Take a look, for example, this is what the Forest Act of the State of Brandenburg (LWaldG) says:

§ 23 Handling of Fire

(1) In the forest or within a distance of less than 50 meters from the edge of the forest, igniting or maintaining a fire or handling burning or smoldering objects as well as smoking is prohibited. Exceptions to the prohibitions stated in sentence 1 are

  • Forest owners or persons authorized by them,
  • Persons carrying out officially ordered or approved work,
  • Users on their own properties, provided that the distance between the fire and the forest is at least 30 meters.

They must take sufficient preventive fire protection measures.

(2) In forest fire hazard levels 4 and 5, the prohibition according to paragraph 1 also applies to the persons mentioned in paragraph 1 Nos. 1 to 3.

So that means for you as a forest owner: Fire generally allowed (with restrictions).

In the background you can see the forest that I have leased
In the background you can see the forest that I have leased

Am I allowed to make a fire as a tenant of a german forest?

If you are a tenant of a german forest, then check your lease agreement. It should state that you are granted the rights to make fires.

For example, such a paragraph:

The tenant is also allowed to maintain and operate fireplaces, provided that the current forest fire level allows it (according to §23 (1) sentence 4 of the Forest Act of the state of Brandenburg -LWaldG- up to a maximum forest fire level 3) and the spreading of the fire or any danger to humans and nature is excluded in any way. A distance of 30 meters to other adjacent forest plots must be maintained according to § 23 (1) sentence 3 LWaldG.

The tenant is considered an authorized person according to § 23 (1) sentence 1 LWaldG or a person entitled to use according to § 3 (4) LWaldG.

As you can see, as a tenant, I am granted the rights to make a fire.

Where is making fire always prohibited?

Lighting a fire is in Germany not allowed:

  • in nature reserves,
  • national parks,
  • nature reserves,
  • foreign front yards,
  • in public places or
  • on agricultural land as well as
  • in hunting regions and
  • within sight of roads or houses.

Safety precautions with open fire

If you make an open fire, please pay attention to the following safety instructions:

  • The height and diameter of a fuel pile should not exceed one meter
  • Use commercially available igniters to ignite, never gasoline or alcohol (risk of explosion)
  • Observe sparks
  • Be cautious with children
  • Create the fire in a pit or on stones
  • Limit the fire with stones
  • Use dry wood to avoid heavy smoke development
  • Always stay with the fire
  • Do not let the fire burn out on its own, actively extinguish it with water or sand
  • Several liters of water, sand, or a large woolen blanket should be readily available nearby for extinguishing

Furthermore, I recommend my guide: How to start a fire? [10 steps to success]

Fire warning
Fire warning

Where there is no judge, there is no plaintiff?

The forest is big, you can make a fire and won't get caught. But that's not the point.

Imagine the following situation: Your fire grows big, and the wind picks up. The sparks fly in all directions. You definitely don't have control over them.

And then the forest ignites from the sparks. Do you really want to witness a fire brigade operation that was triggered by you?

Do you really want to risk imprisonment? Or a large sum of money that you will probably have to save for two, three, or 10 years?

Go through the questions again mentally before your next illegal fire.

There are alternatives, as described above. And then pay attention to the safety instructions. A fire is a serious matter.

The Great Bushcraft 'Law and Order' Test

Bonus: There is also a matching podcast for this guide. Listen to everything about outdoor law here.

And now my question to you: Have you ever made a fire illegally?

Or what's even more interesting: Have you ever applied for a fire permit at your local municipality? What came out of it?

Take care, Martin
Sources for the guide



Martin Gebhardt

Author of the guide

Martin Gebhardt

Hey, I'm Martin. On my blog, you will learn the basics and numerous details about living in the wild. I think survival, bushcraft and the good life in nature are the keys to happiness. Find me here on Instagram or on YouTube. You can find more about my mission on the About Me page.

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