South west France authorities put in forest activity bans over wildfire fears

The region surrounding Bordeaux, the Gironde département, has moved to 'red alert' status for wildfires, according to local authorities. Here is what that means for visitors and residents.

South west France authorities put in forest activity bans over wildfire fears
This aerial view taken on July 29, 2022 shows smoke billowing after wildfires near La Teste-de-Buch, in southwestern France. (Photo by Thibaud MORITZ / AFP)

Local authorities for the Gironde département – home to Bordeaux – have placed the département on ‘red alert’ for forest fires, according to a statement by the préfecture.

This alert is the fourth highest out of five levels of vigilance, and will apply to ‘predominantly forested communities‘ such as Arcachon, la Test-de-Buch and Landiras – the full list of predominantly forested areas in the département can be found HERE.

READ MORE: MAP: Where are the main wildfires in France right now?

Local authorities announced the alert on Sunday, July 31st, and it went into effect Monday, August 1st.

As the south-west region of France prepares for temperatures to rise again this week, local authorities hope to prevent further forest fires from occurring.

READ MORE: Heatwave: What temperatures can we expect in France in August?

Specifically, the alert prohibits people and vehicles from moving in forested area between 2pm and 10pm.

This applies both to vehicles and modes of transport without engines (e.g. bicycles). Circulation during this timeframe will not be allowed on forest roads, rural roads, logging roads, bicycle paths and all other paths and roads in forested areas open to the public.

Click HERE for roads and bike paths closed in the département.

This rule will apply to professional activities in the forests as well – such as logging, forestry, civil engineering, coal and sawmill  operations.

Leisure and sports activities will also be prohibited in such locations during these hours, unless they are carried out specifically in recreational centres or beach areas.

The préfecture also prohibits certain activities within a distance of 200 metres from the woods and forests. These include the use/ setting of fires, smoking, throwing away any flammable or burning trash, incinerating bio (green) waste, wild or isolated camping, and shooting off fireworks in affected areas.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: The rules and options for camping in France

The ‘red alert’ announcement comes after the region has already been significantly impacted by wildfires. Currently, the fire that burned over 7,000 hectares of forest in La Teste-de-Buch (located in the Arcachon Basin) is now classified as “under control,” as of Friday, but it has not yet been extinguished.

Meanwhile, in the Landiras area, located in the southern part of the département, where 13,800 hectares of forest went up in smoke, the fire is no longer spreading, but it is not totally under control yet. 

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French ‘eco-adventurer’ runs 100 marathons for climate

A 30-year-old Frenchman is running 100 marathons in as many days to raise awareness of the carbon footprint left by major sporting events.

French 'eco-adventurer' runs 100 marathons for climate

“I do to my body what we do to the planet,” Nicolas Vandenelsken, who calls himself an “eco-adventurer,”  told AFP as he reached Paris on his 84th marathon, having crossed 10 regions since September 3.

His itinerary of 42.2-kilometre (26.2-mile) marathons is to resemble a heart when seen on a map of France.

Vandenelsken — an activist in two associations dedicated to climate awareness in sport — has met children, associations and farmers along the way.

In Paris, he had a meeting with French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera, saying he told her, “Sport is an incredible lever to reach a maximum number of people.”

Vandenelsken, who had doctors check his fitness before setting out, told AFP that “with my mental strength and with my training, I am able to get through this.”

But he added: “I wouldn’t advise anybody to run 100 marathons in 100 days, because I expect to feel the impact of this in my joints in five or 10 years’ time.”

Vandenelsken timed his runs to coincide with the football World Cup in Qatar which has been criticised for, among other things, its carbon footprint.

But he told AFP his concern went well beyond one major event.

“All these big organisations should think first of respecting the integrity of nature before thinking about the business of sport, before thinking about money,” he said.

Among concrete measures, Vandenelsken said he would like to see transport quotas for major events like cycling race Tour de France, and renovation of existing sports infrastructure rather than building them from scratch.

“My aim is to get a law voted,” he told AFP.

His final marathon is to take him to Valenciennes, in northern France, on December 10.