High risk of forest fires in Aquitaine

Two Canadair planes have been placed on standby at Bordeaux-Mérignac airport.

Firefighters in Aquitaine have been placed on alert due to a dangerous combination of sun, wind and drought that has raised the risk of forest fires.

Two Canadair firefighting aircraft have been placed on stand-by at Bordeaux-Mérignac airport since Tuesday. They have already intervened in a fire of 5 hectares in the Gironde, while in the Landes, the risk is particularly high.

Every spring the fire services knows the risk will increase in the Landaise forests – due to the increased sunshine, stronger winds and the lack of rain often lasting weeks.

“You can see that the ferns are so dry they crack - you do not have to be a great expert to see that if there is a match, the fire will take,” said Commander Jean-Yves Perez, of the Service Départemental d’Incendie et de Secours (SDIS) des Landes. “So the forest is very flammable, especially between about 11am and 8pm. Easterly winds with a very low humidity have been forecast and, especially from tomorrow, the winds will be so strong that we are entering a period of risk that concerns us.”

At the fire station at Mont-de-Marsan, surveillance is at its maximum. An operator analyses all the images sent by cameras installed on 19 sites around the department. With strong winds forecast, they can call for back-up from the two Canadair planes in Bordeaux.

“The Gironde department is classified as a severe risk. [The Canadairs] come from the south-east. So if there is an intervention, if a fire starts, we call them. And they arrive directly, together with the units on the ground and afterwards we co-ordinate,” says Lieutenant Christian Pradelles, head of the operational room.

The Canadairs will stay in Bordeaux-Mérignac because from today it is the turn of the Landes to be at severe risk of fire. The firefighters reiterated that it is forbidden to burn plant waste and that vigilance is required.

Last week, locals were surprised when the prefecture of Ille-et-Vilaine in Brittany released a statement warning of “the particularly favourable weather conditions in recent weeks raising a potential risk of forest fires”.

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