Forest fire: Hundreds flee blaze in southern France

A forest fire raged in parched southern France on Thursday, forcing 400 campers and residents to flee, firefighters said.

Forest fire: Hundreds flee blaze in southern France
Members of the Red Cross speak to people who were evacuated as a precautionary measure in the municipal reception hall. AFP
The blaze has been contained after ravaging 500 hectares (1,250 acres) of pine forest and bush 40 kilometres (25 miles) southwest of Montpellier, the fire service said.
Some 200 firefighters were still battling the blaze, with strong winds expected during the day.
“Today's weather conditions call for the greatest prudence,” the fire service said.
At the height of the blaze 800 firefighters were involved.
Last month, blazes across southern France and Corsica, which are experiencing a particularly hot and dry summer, saw thousands of people evacuated and huge areas of vegetation destroyed.
Thousands of emergency services were brought in to battle the fires, while 12,000 locals and tourists were forced to stay in emergency shelters in the Var department.


Provence on maximum alert over risk of forest fires

A dangerous combination of a lack of rain, the Mistral winds and grounded water planes has put Provence on maximum alert for forest fires.

Provence on maximum alert over risk of forest fires
Photo: AFP

Authorities in the Bouches-du-Rhone département of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur are on high alert fearing that potentially devastating forest fires could break out.

The combination of a dry scrub land after a lack of rain and the famous Mistral wind means firefighters in the area have undertaken exceptional preventative measures.

Some 120 firefighters from outside areas have been drafted into Provence and are ready to jump into action if fires break out.

The Bouches-du-Rhone's firefighting department issued a statement saying the current “level of danger is rarely seen” in the area.

“The operational context of the coming days is exceptional,” the statement added, with strong winds due to blow through the area from Thursday and throughout the weekend.

But the usual response to forest fires has been hampered by the fact that water planes run by Canadair, which are normally dispatched to fight fires, have been grounded after one of the aircraft's landing gear broke on Monday in Ajaccio, Corsica.

All the other 11 planes France normally has at its disposal are grounded until technical checks have been carried out.

Three water-bombing helicopters have been made available as a stop-gap and in the worst case scenario France can call on Spain and Italy to send their own fleet of Canadair waterplanes.

Although the south of France saw a wet winter and spring, the summer weeks have been particularly dry.

Firefighters have already fought a blaze near Avignon on August 1st and hundreds of hectares of land has been burned this summer.

In recent weeks firefighters in the nearby Var département have been fighting fires that have destroyed hundreds of hectares of land.