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Thursday 29 September 2022
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Forest fire risk in France: ‘Difficult’ summer predicted ahead

A fire colonel who helped put out an 80-hectare fire at the weekend said that the indicators of drought and risk of forest fires ‘do not look good’

Forest fire risk in France: ‘Difficult’ summer predicted ahead

Firefighters will face an increased risk of forest fires in France this year, a colonel has said Pic: Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock

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. 

Read more: Wildfire risk: Several forests in southeast France closed to public 
Read more: Early heatwave up to 40C set to arrive in France next week

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. 

Related articles

Wildfire risk: Several forests in southeast France closed to public
New wildfires hit south of France, one death reported in Var blaze 
People – not natural events – caused recent wildfire, says Var MP

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