France posts record losses to forest fires

France posts record losses to forest fires
Credit: Belga

With more than 47,000 hectares already destroyed by fire since the beginning of the year, France experienced a record number of burnt areas in July, according to the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS), which has kept statistics on the issue since 2006.

Since January 1, fires have ravaged 47,361 hectares in France, according to data updated on Thursday, EFFIS Coordinator Jesús San Miguel told French news agency AFP. This far exceeded the 43,602 hectares lost to fire in France for the whole of 2019.

The new record has been reached while the peak fire season is not yet over, and the risk remains very high due to the accumulation of heat waves and an exceptional drought in France.

Thursday’s provisional assessment is partly the result of the two fires which alone ravaged more than 20,000 hectares of forest in Gironde in July. The average area devastated in France by the flames is 9,814 hectares over the period from 2006 to 2021, according to the EFFIS database which is based on satellite images from the European Copernicus program. In the past, however, this annual average “was around 45,000 hectares for the whole of France in the years 1970-1980”, according to Jean-Luc Dupuy, director of research at Inrae in Avignon. This drastic reduction had been obtained by a successful strategy combining prevention, patrols and rapid interventions on incipient fires. However, global warming and the increase in forest biomass now pose the threat of more frequent and intense fires, including in the north of the country. (Belga)

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