The risk of forest fires in France is higher than normal for this time of year and summer is set to be “difficult”, said a firefighter who helped put out an 80-hectare wildfire in Aude this weekend.
Colonel Jérôme Bonnafoux, spokesperson for the Hérault fire service, told FranceInfo: “We are ‘ahead’ on the level of drought compared to other years”, meaning that the risk of drought was greater now than at this time in previous years.
He said: “We have indicators that do not look good and suggest that we will have a difficult summer.”
It comes as the Hérault fire service sent support to Aude this weekend, to help put out an 80-hectare fire in Ornaisons on Friday, June 10. Another fire in Spéracèdes, Alpes-Maritimes also destroyed 12 hectares over the weekend, before it was contained on Saturday early evening.
Colonel Bonnafoux said: “In the fire brigade we have what we call the three 30 rule: that is, when there is less than 30% humidity in the air, a temperature of more than 30 degrees, and a wind of more than 30km/h, we know that we are going to have fires.
“That’s what happened in Ornaisons and in the Alpes-Maritimes."
He said that in departments in the south of the country especially, the risk of forest fires has “become a common risk”, with 15 fires starting per day in the Hérault department alone (and 459 recorded since the start of the year).
He said that there had been relatively little rain, but the grass has grown, and with hot weather on the way, it dries and “increases the risk of fire”.
It comes after forest areas in Var were banned to the public due to the heightened risk.
☀️Vous profitez des beaux jours pour vous balader?— Préfet de l'Hérault (@Prefet34) June 10, 2022
1 feu sur 2 est dû à une imprudence Restez très vigilants et adoptez les bons comportements pour limiter le risque de #FeuxDeForêt
☎️ Signalez tout départ de feu au 18/112 pic.twitter.com/P1GDa4BZVs
Authorities in Hérault have published a guide on how to reduce the risk when walking or relaxing in the countryside:
- No fires or barbecues
- No cigarettes, and no throwing butts from car windows
- No machinery work that could cause sparks
- No use of fuel at home, such as wood or butane
In case you see a fire, sound the alert by calling the fire brigade on 18 (pompiers) or emergency services on 112. People are advised to stay in their home if they see a fire nearby until (or if) they require rescue, as “this is the best shelter”.
Last year, a severe fire in Var, which killed two people and destroyed 7,000 hectares of vegetation, was suspected of being caused by a cigarette butt thrown through a car window.