The winds of the weekend “are likely to aggravate” the fire of the French Riviera
Firefighters battling France’s worst forest fire of the summer fear the shifting winds over the weekend will make it harder to fight the blaze, which has already been burning for four days and killing two.
“We expect risky days,” said Florent Dossetti of the Var fire department.
But he added that there had been fewer outbreaks on Thursday than the day before, with firefighting planes and helicopters dumping water on new fires to help their colleagues on the ground.
About 1,200 firefighters and 250 fire trucks worked through the night to calm the flames along an 80-kilometer front, the Var prefecture said.
He added that the situation “remains very volatile” in parts of the affected area, with 7,100 hectares of forest already burnt.
The flames ravaged the arid Plain of the Moors nature reserve towards the sumptuous seaside resort of the Riviera of Saint-Tropez.
Cigarette butts found
Firefighters have requested information on how the blaze started, with current theories suggesting it started at a highway rest area on Monday where cigarette butts were found.
The National Federation of Firefighters (FNSPF) has also called for much higher fines for the “reckless” disposal of cigarette butts in public places. It currently stands at 135 euros, but the president of the organization, Grégory Allione, believes that the fines should be modulated according to the overall cost of a fire which can reach millions of euros.
About 10,000 residents and holidaymakers were evacuated in the south of the department of France, only a fraction was able to return to the campsites on Wednesday evening while others remained in emergency accommodation.
The prefecture urged the evacuees to “above all avoid returning to your home or to the place of your vacation”.
Beyond the human impact, local rosé wine producers fear an economic blow from the destroyed vines, while an operation to save local protected turtles is underway in the Maures nature reserve.
The blaze is the latest in the Mediterranean region which has also seen major fires claiming lives in Greece, Turkey, Italy and Algeria in recent weeks, with many officials blaming climate change.
The region has long been plagued with seasonal wildfires linked to the hot, dry summer weather, but climatologists warn they will become increasingly frequent due to man-made global warming.