What you need to know about France's blazing forest fires

Evie Burrows-Taylor
Evie Burrows-Taylor - [email protected]
What you need to know about France's blazing forest fires
A man tries to extinguish a fire burning in Bormes-les-Mimosas. Photo: AFP

Thousands of people were evacuated and huge areas of vegetation destroyed by forest fires which have raged in south eastern France and Corsica over the past week. Here's what you need to know.


Thousands of emergency services staff have battled the fires since Monday, while 12,000 locals and tourists spent Wednesday and Thursday night in emergency shelters in the Var department.
Here's what you need to know:
Where are the fires?
The fires have hit areas in southern France, including the Var, Vaucluse, Alpes-Maritimes and Bouches-du-Rhone departments and the town of Carros to the north of Nice. They have also been ravaging northern Corsica. 
On Friday morning, firefighters said the majority of the blazes were "under control". While this does not mean the flames have been extinguished, evacuees were allowed to return to their homes as emergency services worked to put out the flames.
In Artigues in the Var department however, the fire was described as "fixed, but not controlled".
And authorities remain on high alert: the current hot, dry conditions mean it's possible that new blazes could start. Large areas of forest remained off-limits to the public on Friday for this reason.
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What started them?
Investigators have been working to identify the origins of the fires. So far at least three people have been held in police custody in connection with the fires, though two of them - both aged 16 - were released on Thursday.

The president of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region said it was "unlikely" that the Bormes-les-Mimosas fire was accidental, and according to the Delegation for the Protection of the Mediterranean Forest, around 39 percent of the fires are thought to have been started by arson.

Domestic and professional work, leisure activities such as barbecues, and accidents such as dropped cigarette butts are further possible causes for the blazes.
The famous Mistral wind contributed heavily to the fires in Provence which affected the area from Monday until Thursday at speeds that were expected to reach up to 90km/h, driving flames across large areas of parkland in the region.
This, combined with the dry scrub land after a lack of rain, led to the forest fires which took hold on Monday. 
Wildfires: French locals help evacuated holidaymakers
Photo: AFP
What did the firefighting effort involve?
Over 6,000 firefighters, troops, soldiers and civil security soldiers have been involved in the effort to tame the blazes.
They have been backed up by 20 firefighting aircraft, including ten Canadair water bombers. 
On Wednesday, local residents joined the effort. In some places, locals used spades, rakes and even tree branches in a desperate bid to beat back the flames until the firefighters arrived.
Italy - which experienced a series of devastating wildfires last week - responded to France's call for help, sending a water-bombing plane.
What damage was caused?
In total, the forest fires have reduced nearly 7,000 hectares of land to cinders in southern France and Corsica. On Tuesday, a fire ripped along the coast in La Croix-Valmer near Saint-Tropez, a resort frequented by the rich and famous.

La Croix-Valmer's deputy mayor Rene Carandante described a landscape of blackened headlands fringed by charred umbrella pines, where green forest had once framed the azure waters of the Mediterranean.
And at least 12 firefighters have been injured and 15 police officers affected by smoke inhalation so far, officials said.
A total of 12,000 people were evacuated due to the Bormes-Les-Mimosas fire, with local residents and holidaymakers forced to spend up to two nights in temporary reception centres set up in local gyms and school halls.
Photo: AFP
What measures were taken before the flames hit?
The southern department was placed on alert due to an "exceptional risk of forest fire" and the neighbouring Bouches-du-Rhône department was also said to be at "very high risk". 
Authorities have banned access to the nine national parks in the Var and the 24 in the Bouches-du-Rhône and authorities in northern Corsica also announced the closure of its forests due to the threat posed by strong winds expected on Monday, as well as evacuating a particularly vulnerable urban area. 
In the Alps-de-Haute Provence department, "the level of danger from forest fires was raised to 'very high' in two of its six weather zones", local authorities said on Sunday, adding that people are discouraged from using the area.   


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