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Phantom fire checks find faults

Last week we had a visit (although despite being home all day, we saw no one), from inspectors from the Défense de la Forêt Contre les Incendies (DFCI).

Living in a village in the south, surrounded by pines and oaks, we are obliged to débroussaille – cut lower tree branches, remove undergrowth, have no trees overhanging the house and dispose of combustible material.

It is quite a list of detailed requirements.

We agree with the principle but have found the enforcement onerous and costly.

After a 2016 visit from the DFCI (with identical complaints listed by the inspectors this year) we put in a lot of effort to control vegetation, mimosas and other wild plants. So much was cut down this spring, our déchetterie complained about the amount!

A week after the phantom inspectors’ visit we received their report: too much vegetation/undergrowth, our 30-year-old fig tree overhanging the car port, ‘remnants’ not evacuated (there is not a twig in sight), plus a €135 fine – the highest of four levels. 

We are displeased and have written contesting the fine, without much expectation (our mayor said this is rarely successful). 

What is more, it is irksome to think a commendable ‘forest fire’ safety initiative is being used in a punitive way to raise taxes. 

When we look around at our neighbours’ overgrown terrain, we wonder how many of them actually saw the inspectors.. and how many got lower, or no fines, after their visit.

Martin R Redshaw, Pyrénées-Orientales

 Editor’s Note: While it is true the €135 fine is a ‘level 4’ fine it is a standard one for this type of offence and higher ones may be levied. The body responsible for DFCI in your area declined to say if is usual to fine with no attempt to make contact. The basic rules, which can be modified by local regulations, state that a one month warning to put things right should be issued before any fine. 

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