Forest fire risk warnings stepped up

AS two forest fires rage to the south and east of Arcachon, in south west France, the authorities are stepping up their campaign to cut the risk of people accidentally starting a fire.

The two fires in the Gironde have seen around 10,000 hectares of forest burnt, called upon the tireless work of more than 1,000 pompiers and seen many thousands of people evacuate campsites and properties.

To give you an idea of the total area currently burning, the main town of Périgueux here in the Dordogne, home to the préfecture covers an area of just under 1,000 hectares.

Government ministers have visited the south west and despite the efforts of pompiers and Canadair aircraft to drop water on the area, the risk is still high and the fires are not under control.

Fire risk warning

The campaign to raise awareness of the risk of forest fires comes from the fact that nine out of ten fires are started by human actions, and with the average temperature in France heading upwards it is set to be a long running campaign.

Even something as simple as a small BBQ getting out of hand and grass nearby catching fire, or someone working with small machinery and tools in the forest that results in sparks catching light, can see the situation quickly get out of hand.

Man lighting BBQ with fire risk
Smokers are also being warned of the risks of lighting up in the woods themselves, or throwing cigarette stubs out of the window of a moving car and it smouldering in the grass at the roadside.

Speed of fire spreading

The campaign also highlights the risk of the speed with which a fire can spread, stressing that whilst you think you might have everything under control fires spread quickly.

With the right conditions such as a strong wind, a fire can spread across a kilometre in just ten minutes, with the danger of burning embers landing in other areas and starting new fires.

Man with angle grinder spreading sparks into grass

Cut the risk of forest fires

Some forests have already been closed to visitors, these fall under a vigilance rouge warning, so if you are in an area of risk be aware of where you can and cannot visit.

But simple steps such as not smoking in wooded areas, only having a BBQ on a patio or terraced area and not having celebratory fireworks regardless of the occasion are some of the measures people can take.

Working in forest zones can also be a risk especially on campsites with tools such as an angle grinder or soldering station, and ensure you have a fire extinguisher to hand.

Although the pompiers and other forestry organisations are on full alert to spot outbreaks of fire, if you are close to the start of a fire call 112 or 18 and provide an exact location.

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