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Brittany wildfire started by local burning garden waste against rules

The fire threatened the historic Forêt de Paimpont but has been stopped. A larger Brittany wildfire - in the Monts d’Arrée mountains - is now also under control

A wildfire began in Brittany on Monday because a local resident was burning garden waste against French rules Pic: Ireshetnikov54 / Shutterstock

The cause of a fire which began on the edge of the historic Forêt de Paimpont in Ille-et-Vilaine, Brittany on Monday (July 18) has been identified as a local resident burning garden waste. 

The Forêt de Paimpont, also known as the Brocélien Forest in the fifteenth century, is the region’s most famous woodland. 

This is because it holds a historic association with the mystical Forest of Brocéliande, one of the key sites of the Arthurian legend in French tradition. It is often said to be where Merlin is buried. 

Firefighters brought the blaze under control after around five to seven hectares had been burnt, but the flames almost reached the University of Rennes’ Station biologique de Paimpont, where around 20 scientists were working.

They were evacuated as a precaution and animals including horses and monkeys were kept safe on site. 

The local gendarmerie say the fire began at a nearby property where a 67-year-old man was burning garden waste: an illegal practice. 

The fire spread because of the warm wind and high temperatures and the resident went to gendarmes himself to inform them about the incident.

“He was picked up by the emergency services and hospitalised,” the gendarmerie said, and an investigation into “involuntary destruction by fire” has been opened.

Ille-et-Vilaine saw temperatures of 40C on Monday, and most of the department is under drought alerts, meaning water restrictions for residents and farmers. 

Read more: Drought map update: See the French departments with water restrictions

What are the rules on burning garden waste? 

It is normally against the law to burn garden waste in the open air. 

Garden waste is a form of biowaste. It can consist of: 

  • Grass cuttings 
  • Fallen leaves 
  • Branches and leaves collected during pollarding and brushwood cutting 
  • Fruit and vegetable peels

The law allows individuals to mulch them or leave them to decompose in a compost bin. 

There are collective green waste containers at rubbish tips managed by your local authority, with whom you can also often arrange for your garden cuttings to be collected from outside your house. 

There are some rare exceptions to the rule on burning this waste, details of which can be found in the article below. 

Read more: Can I burn leaves and other waste in my garden in France?

Fire on Monts d’Arrée mountains being ‘brought under control’ 

Some 1,725 hectares of land have been burnt by a wildfire on the Monts d’Arrée (Finistère), but firefighters have now said that “the progression of the blaze is slowing and the situation is being brought under control”. 

The fire began around Brasparts on Monday (July 18), and has resulted in the mobilisation of 278 firefighters and 60 vehicles. Several roads were closed and 500 people had to be evacuated from communes such as Botmeur. 

Related articles 

Can I have an outdoor fire pit or chiminea in my French garden?

People in Ile-de-France can smell smoke of Gironde fires 500kms away

France wildfires rage on: 20,000 hectares burnt, one arrest made

Wildfires in France: Why is it so difficult to get them under control?

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