Over 2,500 campers were evacuated from campsites in Argeles-sur-Mer, outside the city of Perpignan close to the Spanish border, just as the holiday season gets underway, the local authorities said.
No-one was hurt and those evacuated are being looked after in three sites including two gymnasiums.
It is not clear what caused the fire that erupted earlier Monday. Two Canadair water bombers and some 30 vehicles are being used to put the fire out. But gusts of some 70 kilometres an hour were complicating the task.
Argeles-sur-Mer boasts that it is the “capital of camping” in the summer and sees its population swell from 10,000 to 150,000 people.
An employee of the Le Dauphin campsite, which can host 1,000 people, said all its clients had been evacuated to zones designated by the fire brigade and there had been no material damage.
Google maps: Argeles-sur-Mer
Around 90 km/h further north, in the towns of Fabrezan and Ferrals in the Aude department, about 300 hectares of forest and scrub went up in smoke in a fire that started at 9 am on Monday, according to firefighters.
The fire has been contained but “remains active” and hundreds of firefighters are still at the scene. According to the authorities, no one has been injured and no homes are under threat.
With increased global warming and urbanisation, the world as a whole is having to confront natural disasters with unforeseen behavioural patterns and consequences.
A 2013 survey by French polling firm Ifop found that 78 percent of French people were unaware of what to do in the event of France's national alert system being triggered, and 63 percent didn't know the risks that their geographical location expose them to.
“We have created this myth of a welfare state that can simply stop catastrophes from happening,” French historian Emmanuel Garnier told Le Parisien in 2016, adding that the French suffer from “selective amnesia” when it comes to the deadliness and devastation of previous natural disasters.