Firefighters issue blunt butt message

Firefighters have issued a blunt message following a series of wildfires that, they believe, were started by carelessly thrown away cigarettes.

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The no-nonsense warning on Twitter was posted after a blaze, near Bessan, Hérault, destroyed 100 hectares of scrub. The message shows a lit cigarette on a road, with a car driving off and the words, ‘This little gesture makes you a big idiot’.

Its blunt wording is backed by research showing that nine out of 10 forest fires in France are started by humans.

Another blaze, near Saint-Cannat, Bouches-du-Rhône, that destroyed 800 hectares of land, threatened properties, and delayed rail services between Paris and Marseille, is also thought to have been caused by a discarded cigarette butt.

Pompiers say anyone found guilty of starting a brush fire, intentionally or not, could face up to three years in prison and €45,000 in fines.

Since 2003 land-owners are obliged to clear brush or tall vegetation around their homes, or on any empty land they own.

Homeowners with properties close to wooded areas in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Corsica, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Occitanie and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur are obliged to maintain the land to cut fire risks, or risk fines and having work done at their expense.

Other regions, departments and communes have their own local bylaws.