More than four times the area of Paris, ten times that of Lyon: nearly 47,000 hectares have gone up in smoke since the start of the year in France, an unprecedented figure for decades, according to figures from the European agency Effis (European Forest Fire Information System).
The two fires in Gironde last month alone account for almost half of this heavy toll: 20,800 hectares were burned in the municipalities of La Teste-de-Buch and Landiras, and 36,750 inhabitants were evacuated. The fires, which lasted from July 12 to 24, have been described as “non-standard” by the prefecture of Gironde, ” because these fires were extremely difficult to control, exceptional because they were reinforced by exceptional climatic conditions, exceptional by the scale of the resources mobilized and the work carried out to contain them”.
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Crushing heat, low soil humidity, malicious acts… All the parameters were there for a dantesque summer in France, including in regions usually little affected by fires: thus, 1,300 hectares burned in Brasparts, in the mountains of Arrée in Brittany, a shock at the local level. 1,800 hectares burned in Canjuers in the Var, and 1,200 in Aubenas in Ardèche. At the beginning of August, while France is going through a third wave of summer heat, no less than 11 forest fires are still in progress, according to a specialized site.
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The maps above and below show the extent of the land destroyed this year. 2022 already surpasses the most recent peaks, whether 2003 (42,725 hectares) or 2019 (43,602).
“80,000 hectares had burned in France in 1976 but over the whole year and we are only at the beginning of August”underlines the spokesperson for Civil Security, Alexandre Jouassard, with the “Parisien”. “With the persisting drought, heat and wind, all the elements are unfortunately still in place to encourage new outbreaks of fires. »
“We will undoubtedly break a record this year in terms of surfaces that have gone up in smoke”, adds Senator Olivier Rietmann, co-author of a report on forest fires, the conclusions of which were revealed on Wednesday to the Ile-de-France daily.
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In Europe, a year based on records
The Effis data also shows that Europe is experiencing one of its most destructive years in terms of fires. Nearly 600,000 hectares have already been reduced to ashes in the first seven months of the year within the European Union, with five countries sharing 86% of this total:
- Spain : 229,293 hectares
- Romania : 149,997 hectares
- Portugal : 56,329 hectares
- France : 45,859 hectares
- Italy : 33,453 hectares
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Only the historic fires of autumn 2017 in Portugal (more than 560,000 hectares burned) prevent the continent from beating its 21st recorde century.
The map below shows the extent of the areas destroyed in the European Union since the beginning of the year, covering an area 57 times greater than that of Paris.
Burned areas could increase by 80% by 2050 in the Mediterranean region, recalls Olivier Rietmann. At this date, nearly 50% of the moors and forests of mainland France could be affected by a high fire risk, compared to a third in 2010. The Senate report unveiled on Wednesday emphasizes an increase in clearing objectives, on prevention and on a net reinforcement in material and human resources, recommending in particular to reverse the 500 job cuts planned by 2025 at the National Forestry Office (ONF), which manages the 11 million hectares of French public forests.