More than 300 hectares of land were set on fire in the departments of Vaucluse (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur) and Aude (Occitanie) in new eruptions with 12 firefighters reported injured, one seriously.
The hot, dry weather that has persisted in south-eastern France in recent weeks, coupled with strong gusts of wind, makes it difficult for firefighters to control the flames.
A forest fire that covered 210 hectares of land in the Vaucluse department, in south-eastern France, on Tuesday August 17, restarted overnight.
The flames, which started at 2 a.m. Tuesday morning in the village of Beaumes-de-Venise – 40 km northeast of Avignon – were fanned by strong winds of up to 50 km / h.
This happened as more than 1,000 firefighters tackled a outbreak in the Var department near St Tropez where this morning, a man in his fifties was found dead at his home. The cause of death could be linked to the fire, but has not yet been confirmed.
A 32-year-old woman is also missing as her family and friends have not heard from her since Monday evening.
Tuesday evening, the 386 firefighters mobilized to fight the fire had been able to surround and control the flames.
However, around 3:00 am this morning, a “violent” resurgence burned an additional 30 hectares around the neighboring village of Beaumes-de-Venise, Le Barroux.
Reinforcements of firefighters were sent to help those already on the ground and at 6:45 am today the fire was “contained”.
So far, six firefighting planes and helicopters have been deployed, carrying out 155 airdrops of water to cushion the area.
Tuesday evening, seven firefighters had been slightly injured and 130 people had been evacuated by the prefecture of Vaucluse.
More than 200 hectares of vegetation around Beaumes-de-Venise, Caromb and Saint-Hippolyte-le-Graveyron were burned by the fire.
The Vaucluse public health service has warned that the huge volumes of water used during the firefighting operation will have a ripple effect on the public supply.
Tap water may appear brown for 9,000 inhabitants of Beaumes-de-Venise, Aubignan, Lafare, Roque-Alric, Suzette and Barroux, who will also experience low water pressure.
These people are not recommended to drink or cook with tap water until further notice, limiting use to washing and cleaning.
[POINT DE SITUATION] #feudeforet #beaumesdevenise
The fire had an unfavorable development with a runaway of residual fires around 4 am, at the bottom of Pi Logier. The fire was stopped at the pie Logié ridge.
Infos https://t.co/7Gpi3ZBr1h pic.twitter.com/Sz4ROwTPqY
– Prefect of Vaucluse (@ Prefet84) August 18, 2021
In Aude, the emergency services are fighting against two new fires in Bizanet near Narbonne, which have displaced more than 60 hectares of land.
Although firefighters are in control of the flames in this area, wind gusts of up to 70-80 km / h make it difficult to predict the course of the fire.
While battling the blaze, five firefighters were reportedly injured, one seriously.
At the same time, two fires in Peyriac-de-Mer and near Durban-Courbières – south of Narbonne – were brought under control, although they are still burning.
Before being brought under control, the Durban fire covered more than 20 hectares, prompting the mobilization of 250 firefighters.
Following these fires, the hamlets of Mont Milan and Pech Rascas were evacuated.
The Aude prefecture is currently urging residents to avoid the affected area.
A new normal in Europe?
The philosopher and professor at Aix-Marseille universities, Joëlle Zask, believes that this type of forest fire, abnormal for France, could soon become regular here and throughout Europe.
Ms Zask, speaking to France Info earlier today, said climate change brings long periods of hot, dry and windy weather, which creates the ideal conditions for forest fires.
The uniformity of artificial tree plantations, as well as the disappearance of fire-resistant trees like the cypress, only pave the way for the flames.
“We need to relearn how to protect forests, maintain them and keep them open,” Zask added. “There is a forestry practice that can protect it from flames that people have used since the dawn of time.
“Today we must use this invaluable knowledge to prevent these mega-fires. “
More than 1,000 firefighters are still fighting forest fires behind St Tropez