500 people evacuated as forest fire breaks out in south of France

The public is banned from entering several forest areas as red alerts continue for blazes

General picture shows helicopter spraying water on forest fire from above
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Five hundred people were evacuated after a significant forest fire broke out in the south of France yesterday (July 30).

Water spraying helicopters and 45 firemen were deployed to fight the blaze in Île de Gaou, which is part of the commune Six-Fours-les-Plages near Toulon in the Var area.

The fire is now reported to be under control but around 5,000m2 of land has been burned and a smoke extraction process is underway. Its cause has not yet been identified.

Read also: What resources does France have to deal with forest fires?

The Monts Toulonnais area of the Var department is under a red alert for forest fires due to the extremely high temperatures which the South of France has seen in recent weeks.

This is the first time this department has been placed under the highest alert since the introduction of the new system in June.

A red alert means that there is a very high risk of fires.

Seven other uplands in the Var department are under orange alert for severe risk of fires, while one has a yellow alert in place meaning the risk is moderate.

Fire fighters have deployed teams to put in place preventative measures, and the authorities have established 14 observation posts with 150 guards monitoring the land to look out for fire outbreaks.

Access banned to several forests

Authorities have also banned access to eight huge forests in the Monts Toulonnais area while the risk of fire remains at such a high level. This marks the highest number of zones closed to the public since the beginning of July.

Elsewhere, in Bouches-du-Rhône, access is banned in seven areas.

In areas with an orange alert, access to the forest areas is extremely unadvisable.

Expert in defence against forest fires, Christophe Chantepy told FranceInfo that the closures are in place to protect both the forests themselves as well as the public, with the majority of forest fires - nine in ten - started by humans in some way (whether accidentally or deliberately).

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