2,000 campers evacuated as forest fires break out in south of France

A fire brigade spokesman warns: ‘Right now, the whole of France could catch fire at any moment’

A French firefighter (sapeurs-pompiers) stands by a forest fire in France
Hundreds of firefighters were on-site to bring the flames under control in the region
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Forest fires in the south of France have destroyed almost 200 hectares of vegetation but are now under control, say firefighters.

Several fires started in the Gard department (Occitanie) yesterday Monday June 13, with one destroying 60 bungalows at one of Europe’s largest campsites. More than 185 hectares were burned before the blaze was brought under control.

A total of 240 firefighters, including some from neighbouring departments, were on-site. The services’ latest report, published yesterday just before 21:00, said that the flames had been “contained”. Emergency services stayed on-site overnight to avoid any risk of restarts.

The first fire of the day was declared at Grau-du-Roi, near the coast, at the Espiguette campsite, which has more than 2,000 sites over 42 hectares between the sea and the Camargue region.

Among the 3,000 holidaymakers registered as staying at the site, no one was injured; although three firefighters called to the scene were slightly hurt during the operation, said commander Christophe Marin-Tallon to BFMTV.

More than 2,000 holidaymakers were evacuated. The prefecture said: “They were taken to safety or left the area under their own steam, to the city's congress centre and the yacht club: no one in the campsite is in danger anymore.”

Some campers were invited to take up sites in neighbouring campsites.

Read more: What can we expect from the heatwave about to hit France?

Further to the north, around 20km from Nîmes, around 100 hectares of forest were burned. Canadair planes made several flyovers during the day, to help put out the flames.

In Lédenon, a town near the famous Pont du Gard, 65 hectares of undergrowth, forest and brushwood also went up in smoke.

Around 60 firefighters, helped by a team from Vaucluse, worked to protect houses, including a stud farm with about 30 horses.

Canadair jets were also called to intervene at a fire in Blauzac, where another 20 hectares were burnt.

It comes after a leading firefighter warned that the country was at severe risk of wildfires this season, with a “difficult summer ahead”.

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

Eric Brocardi, spokesperson for the Federation nationale des sapeurs-pompiers de France, today told FranceInfo: “Right now, the whole of France could catch fire at any moment.”

This is especially true as temperatures rise above 30C as predicted. Mr Brocardi reminded the public of the 30 rule: “A wind of 30km/h or more, a level of humidity above 30%, and temperatures above 30C” are the perfect “powder keg” conditions for forest fires, he said.

He said that “difficulties” are to come “for the summer period if people don’t pay attention to their forests and their own planet”.

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