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How does France's new wildfire risk forecast work? Where can I see it?

It aims to give advance warning of the areas of France most susceptible to forest fires

The map should help lower the damage caused by wildfires this year Pic: Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock

France has launched a new forest fire map that will give daily updates on the areas of the country most susceptible to blazes.

President Emmanuel Macron was in the Gard department on Friday (June 2) to publicise the new tool, which will be available until the end of September. 

It follows the example of other countries like Canada, the US and Spain, who publish similar maps giving the national risk of forest fires.

Designed to be used by both the emergency services and the wider public, it will be updated around 17:00 each day. 

For those located where risks are highest, the advance warning will allow emergency services to better deploy firefighting services. 

Although the map has been welcomed by some, it has also been criticised for making sensitive information available to the public and for not being introduced alongside more equipment or resources needed to fight the fires once they appear.

Where can I find the map, and how will it work? 

The map will be available daily through the Météo France website or via its smartphone application.

It will give information on a departmental level for all of mainland France and Corsica, giving the risk of forest fires for the next 48 hours (or two calendar days).

It will use the same tiered warning system as the site’s weather map, with four levels of danger shown. 

Green represents a “low” risk of fires in the department, yellow “moderate”, orange “high”, and red “very high”. 

The first map, revealed exclusively on TF1 on Thursday, showed most departments at the lowest level, except for some in the Pays de la Loire region and to the south-west of Paris, which were at moderate risk. 

Below is a screenshot of today’s (June 2) map.

Picture credit: Météo France

Criteria including rain and wind levels, vegetation in the area, and humidity (among others) will be analysed to determine the risk levels in each department.

Read also: French MPs vote to ban smoking in forests when wildfire risk is high

What are the responses to the map? 

The government has implemented the tool to try and prevent a repeat of last year’s forest fires, which saw around 70,000 hectares of land destroyed, largely in the Gironde department. 

They see two main benefits to providing this information on a national scale.

First and foremost, it will allow emergency services such as firefighters (many of whom are volunteers) to better anticipate where a fire will strike. 

This should then alleviate issues of a lack of personnel, or let firefighters and equipment from regions with a lower risk to temporarily relocate to a higher-risk department.

Secondly, allowing the public to access the information will allow those in high-risk areas to be more cautious when close to forests, effectively clear their gardens, or potentially even evacuate. 

Read also: Can I get help meeting France’s mandatory garden clearance rules?

Critics have decried both points, however.

Firefighters have previously said the map will not help, as the extra resources needed to effectively fight fires are not available, even if they can predict where a fire may happen.

Providing the information to the public is also seen as a risk. Around 90% of all forest fires are started by humans (intentionally or otherwise) and letting people know where it is easiest to start a blaze could backfire. 

Related articles 

Forest fire risk in parts of southern France raised to ‘very severe’

Firefighters forced to get water from sea in drought-hit south France

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