France prepares for 10-day heatwave, wildfire risk increases

Thirteen departments are under a yellow canicule vigilance warning

France is set to experience a heatwave lasting up to 10 days this week
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Météo France has placed 13 French departments on a yellow alert for a possible canicule heatwave this week.

The departments are: Morbihan, Loire-Atlantique, Vendée, Charente-Maritime, Charente, Gironde, Landes, Haute-Garonne, Tarn, Gard, Vaucluse, Ardèche and Drôme.

The alert will take effect today (July 11) at around 13:00. Although it will encourage residents to be vigilant to the heat, they do not currently need to take any special precautions.

A canicule (heatwave) is a specific term in French and refers to when temperatures are very high during the day – the actual figure depending on the area of France – and remain above a certain threshold at night for at least three consecutive days.

French forecasting stations believe it likely that a canicule will develop this week but it is too early to be sure.

Météo France predicts that the heatwave will begin properly tomorrow (July 12), with temperatures above 30C expected across the country, and highs of more than 35C in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Occitanie and the Rhône valley.

This trend will continue as the week wears on and into the weekend, with some places seeing temperatures of 38-40C. Temperatures are expected to fall gradually from July 19 or 20.

The hot weather is being caused by a heat dome which developed over north Africa, and which is now moving up towards western Europe.

This episode is expected to break temperature records in several French towns.

Wildfire risk increases

This week’s hot weather has heightened concerns over wildfires, the president of the Fédération nationale des sapeurs-pompiers de France, Grégory Allione, has said.

“This is the straw which is beginning to break the camel’s back,” he said during an interview with France Inter today. “There are already wildfires starting all over the place.”

There are currently 42,000 professional and 198,000 volunteer firefighters in France, but Mr Allione called for a recruitment drive which would push the number of volunteers up to 250,000 by 2027.

This is because he expects wildfire incidents to become more and more common in the coming years, saying “climate change is not in 2030 or 2050; we are seeing it now.”

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