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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IN PICTURES: French drought intensifies as River Loire dries up

As France continues to suffer its worst drought on record, many of its mighty rivers - including the Loire and the Dordogne - have in some areas dwindled to a trickle while in other regions lakes and reservoirs have vanished.

IN PICTURES: French drought intensifies as River Loire dries up

Almost all of France is now under some level of water restrictions and in many communes tap water has been rationed or even cut off altogether as supplies run dry.

The climate crisis-linked drought – intensified by an unusually hot summer – has dried out many subterranean water supplies, but the country’s rivers are also affected.

From the Loire to the Dordogne, rivers are slowing to a trickle – as this aerial video from French TV channel LCI shows.

The dry bed of the Loire River in Saumur, western France on August 8th. Photo by GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP)

Swimmers bathe in the Adour river near Aire-sur-Adour, southwestern France, on August 9th. Photo by GAIZKA IROZ / AFP

Across France many lakes have also virtually dried up, while reservoirs are at a perilously low level.

The dry bed of Lac des Brenets, part of the Doubs River, a natural border between eastern France and western Switzerland. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

In inland areas, many lakes have ‘beaches’ that serve as leisure attractions for locals who are too far away for day-trips to the sea – complete with sun-beds, bars, cafés and souvenir stalls.

Some lake beaches have been forced to close because of the lack of water.

A man walks at the Castillon lake, partially dried out, in Saint-Andre-les-Alpes, southeastern France. Photo by Christophe SIMON / AFP

Marshland has also dried out, threatening wildlife and also the livelihood of France’s artisan salt-makers, who produce fleur de sel from salt marshes around the French coastline.

French salt worker Evan Thoby collects salt flowers in salt marshes, in Batz-sur-Mer, western France. Photo by Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP

These scenes have been repeated across Europe, including in Italy where the Po river has dried up and Germany where the Rhine – which carried a huge amount of freight traffic in normal times – is perilously low and has had to restrict shipping.