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The wildfires of Provence

The situation seemed to have stabilised in the region yet local authorities still warn residents of potential threats. In recent weeks, the Côte d’Azur has experienced more than its fair share of the summer heat with numerous wildfires sparked in the Alpes-Maritimes, Var and Bouches du Rhônes departments. While the situation now appears to have stabilised, in part thanks to the drop in winds, more than 6,000 firefighters have struggled against the flames that have ravaged nearly 7,000 acres of vegetation across the south of France.

Hundreds of acres have been raised to the ground in the Alpes-Maritimes with serious fires in Castagniers, Semboules, and Carros as well as many other smaller, yet still extremely damaging fires in other towns and rural locations. 

In the Var and Bouches du Rhône, the situation is slowly improving, however ongoing conditions of drought and wind continue to provide a source of aggravation. The recent fires in Bormes les Mimosas, Artigues, La Croix Valmer and Saint Cezaire sur Siagne, which made headlines worldwide, have been suppressed, but several hundred residents remain homeless. In the Var alone, more than 12,000 people were forced to evacuate in the face of the fires. 

Meteorological conditions can be blamed for much of flames, but speculations have also been raised regarding other causes for the fires. Last Friday, two teenage boys were held in custody by the police for allegedly starting the fire in Carros in the Alpes-Maritimes and a 42-year old man has also reportedly confessed to being the origin of the fire in Peynier, Bouches du Rhône.

According to a study published by France Info on the causes of forest fires in south eastern France, which employed data collected between 1st January 2012 and 25th July 2017, four in 10 fires in the region are caused by arson attacks.

The threat of further fires still remains very high due to the drought and Provence’s powerful Mistral wind. Local authorities have issued regulations limiting access to forest zones and warned residents of the high level of danger in their area.

 

Claire Davis