Following yesterday’s announcement of Code Orange across the Flemish region as a result of the risk of forest fires, the region’s agency for nature and forests (ANB) has raised the alert level in Antwerp and Limburg provinces to Code Red, the highest alert there is.
Today, the Royal Meteorological Institute in Brussels announced that April and May this year were the driest period since records began, with sunny weather increasing the risk of drought caused by low rainfall.
That has had its effects on water levels, with a ban on farmers using water courses to water their crops, homes in the periphery of Brussels running out of tap water and a region-wide Code Orange calling for extra vigilance from visitors to nature reserves on this long Pentecost weekend.
Code Red means access to nature areas is not forbidden, but not advised.
“We can’t close the nature reserves for practical reasons,” said a spokesperson for the ANB. “For example, it’s important that emergency services can enter the area quickly if necessary. Logically, forests and nature reserves often have many possible entrances. If you still want to go for a walk, then definitely stay at the edge of the forest or nature reserve.”
As shown by the fire in the Sonian Wood earlier this week, a small fire can rapidly spread. In that case, what may have been a cigarette end led to damage in 1,000 square metres of woods.
The ANB reminded visitors that making fires is forbidden, as is smoking in nature areas.
In the meantime, fire-watchers are manning the watchtowers, and fire brigades in the two provinces are on stand-by with extra materiel and extra manpower.