Wildfire strikes in south of France: residents warned to clear land

80 firefighters deployed to stop blaze spreading due to strong wind

The fire was declared between Perpignan and Villeneuve-de-la-Raho on April 16
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A wildfire broke out yesterday (April 16) in the south of France requiring 80 firefighters and several fire trucks to prevent it from spreading due to the strong north-westerly wind.

The fire started between Perpignan and Villeneuve-de-la-Raho in the Pyrénées-Orientales just before 17:00. 

One year ago to the day, on April 16, 2023, similar conditions helped to spread a devastating wildfire near the Spanish border at Cerbère Pyrénées-Orientales, which destroyed 1,000 hectares of land and required the mobilisation of 500 firefighters.

While the wildfire this year was mastered within several hours, the dangerous conditions that help fires to spread will remain until at least Thursday: the north-westerly wind and dry land - indeed the department is already affected by drought.

The departmental prefecture has warned locals to avoid burning vegetation and to remember the legal requirement to clear undergrowth around their properties.

The origin of the fire has not yet been determined.

However, thanks to the rapid response to this year’s fire, which saw several roads closed and eight fire trucks along with 80 local firefighters from the SDIS 66 deployed within one hour, the blaze was under control at 18:30. 

Nonetheless, at least two hectares of land were still affected on Wednesday morning (April 17).

The department was already on high alert due to the strong north-westerly wind, known as the tramontin, which was blowing at 100km/h and is known to heighten the risk of wildfires, help them spread and make water bombing with planes more difficult.