As of Thursday, ‘code orange’ has been issued in all forest and nature areas in Flanders to warn of an increased risk of wildfires due to the persistent drought, announced the Agency for Nature and Forests.
People are called on not to light (camp)fires, smoke or leave children unsupervised in the countryside until at least Monday. The fire brigade will also be particularly vigilant and is ready to use more equipment and manpower when a wildfire breaks out.
“Code orange applies to all forest and nature areas that we manage, but the fire danger is of course the same in other areas,” the agency said. “Therefore, we recommend that you be equally careful in those places as well.”
VRT weather reporter Frank Deboosere confirmed that Belgium is experiencing “an extremely dry spring.” In March, it rained two litres per square metre in Uccle. “That is next to nothing. It has never rained as little as this March.”
At the beginning of April, 30 millimetres fell in Uccle, “but that is still only two-thirds of a normal month,” Deboosere pointed out. “And we have not seen much in May yet either.”
The ‘code orange’ warning is valid until at least Monday, and can possibly be extended. More information can be found on the website of the Agency for Nature and Forests.
In Wallonia, ‘code red’ is even in place for the High Fens and certain paths in the nature reserve have been closed because the risk of fire is too high.
Tips to prevent a wildfire
The fire brigade of the Vlaams-Brabant West zone offered a few tips and things to watch out for. “Just because nature looks green on the outside, that’s not to say it isn’t dry enough to catch fire quickly.”
- Do not throw cigarette buds out of cars.
- Be careful with litter. “It is rather exceptional, but sometimes the reflection of sunlight in glass can cause a fire.”
- Do not park a car that has run hot on high grass.
- If you see something smouldering in the countryside, notify the fire brigade immediately, even if it is very small. “It is better to be there as soon as possible. Once a wildfire reaches a certain proportion, it is very difficult to extinguish.”