• "In the past, urbanization took very little account of the fire risk," says geographer Christine Bouisset.

  • "The exceptional summer that we have just experienced is very likely to become a normal summer in ten to fifteen years" warns the director of the Departmental Directorate of Territories and the Sea, and if "building the city under the forest is - being very pleasant is above all extremely dangerous.


  • Authorizations and construction rules in forest areas could be reviewed.

  • The five burnt campsites at the foot of the Dune du Pilat should reopen in 2023, but with different facilities.

After the shock, the awareness?

“Everyone thought that we were safe, in Gironde, from major fires, believes Renaud Laheurte, director of the DDTM (departmental directorate of territories and the sea).

With 28,000 hectares burnt during the summer, we will have to integrate a different mode of urban planning”.

“The emergency and crisis management systems were effective, but there was still a luck factor, analyzes Christine Bouisset, lecturer in geography, member of the Tree laboratory (Energy and environmental transitions) at the University of Pau.

If the start of fire in La Teste had occurred closer to the campsites, at a time of great affluence, we could have had a much greater disaster.

She also calls for awareness to review the way of developing habitat in forest areas.

“The prioritization is done to the detriment of the forests”

“In the past, urbanization took very little account of the fire risk, even if there has been a little more vigilance in recent years, considers the geographer.

What poses a problem is the tangle we are getting at, between urbanized zone and forest zone.

We thus find ourselves with forest plots taken in the middle of dwellings, with the risk of causing a fire to arrive in the middle of inhabited areas, and of making the maintenance of these plots more complex.


The president of the departmental council of Gironde, Jean-Luc Gleyze (PS), if he refuses to speak of "anarchic urbanization" in his department, recognizes however that "several villages have gradually grown to their limits, sometimes in contact directly from the forest, without any protection zone”.

As a result, recalls Christine Bouisset, that “the emergency services were forced to prioritize their actions this summer, which is normal: first the populations, then the dwellings, and lastly the forest.

Prioritization is therefore at the expense of forests.


"Create strips around housing estates"

Second consequence of urbanization, continues the researcher, “the more a forest is inhabited, frequented, which is moreover by people unfamiliar with forest issues, the more it multiplies accidental fire starts, acts of imprudence….

When fires are not caused by arsonists.

Several questions now arise.

How to urbanize in the future in the rural sector of the south of the department, knowing that the Gironde remains an attractive department, welcoming 20,000 additional inhabitants each year?

And considering that “the exceptional summer that we have just experienced is very likely to become a normal summer within ten to fifteen years, warns Renaud Laheurte.

Building the city under the forest may be very pleasant, but above all it is extremely dangerous.


“It is necessary to generalize devices, which already exist, consisting in creating perimeter strips around housing estates, so that there is not too dense vegetation near inhabited areas, announces Christine Bouisset.

It is feasible, from the moment it is integrated from the moment of construction.

We must stop entangling bits of subdivision with the forest.

It is also necessary to provide access for emergency services and refuse building permits if these measures are not applied.

A development should never be authorized if these security standards are not applied.


“Move towards a more grouped urbanism”

“The firefighters defended 4,402 homes in all, this summer in Gironde [for around thirty buildings destroyed on arrival], which were either in the forest or on the edge, recalls the director of the DDTM.

It is clear that we have work to do with the local authorities to simplify the edges between urbanization and the forest, to avoid forest sprawl.

We must move towards a more grouped urbanism.


In Belin-Béliet, in southern Gironde, ten homes, barns and garages were destroyed by the Landiras fires this summer.

"In these sectors that have burned [on the edge of the forest], the local urban plan (PLU) has already considerably restricted building rights since January 2019, and it is obvious that after these fires, there is no will have no additional authorization, ”says Mayor Cyrille Declercq.

On the rest of the town, "building rights only concern the town center, and for the outskirts of the town, it is not excluded that there is a new approach, but for the moment no decision has been taken. 'has been taken.


Jean-Luc Gleyze stresses for his part that the "zero net artificialisation (Zan) of the soil [which will come into force gradually, to apply to communities from 2050] will have a strong impact on the way in which territories will develop, and mayors will find it increasingly difficult to imagine public equipment projects, and to be able to meet the needs of populations.

"The Zan will inevitably raise the question of urban forms, and the episode that we have just experienced will feed this reflection", affirms the first departmental vice-president, Christine Bost.

“Educate the population on the risk of fire”

Second priority for the geographer: "secure what already exists", to separate urban areas from wooded areas.

“The worst is the city under the forest, and we will have to seriously question the future of these areas.

Already very urbanized, the sector of La Teste, in the Arcachon basin, is more concerned.

“With us, 92% of the territory is subject to classification, and it is no longer possible to build on the edge of the forest, explains the mayor of La Teste-de-Buch, Patrick Davet (LR).

On the other hand, we must do prevention.

I will enforce the legal requirement of 50 meters clearing around your home, because it is not always.

In my PLU (Local Urban Plan), I no longer want any black buildings, because they keep the heat in.

Finally, we will have to think about putting procedures in place,

to educate the population on the risk of fire.

In Cazaux this summer, the inhabitants were evacuated very quickly, without having time to take things, I think you need to have a ready bag in your house at all times.


With 48,000 inhabitants evacuated during the summer in Gironde, it is indeed necessary "to work on crisis management", abounds Christine Bouisset.

“We saw this summer that when evacuating Pyla, there were traffic jams.

What would have happened if it had been necessary to evacuate urgently, under the pressure of fire?

So you have to be ready when it happens, through evacuation drills, raising awareness from a very young age at school, repeated messages.


Campsites will reopen “under different conditions”

Finally, there is the question of campsites.

Five establishments located at the foot of the Dune du Pilat were more or less destroyed by the fires.

"Safety has always been a priority for us," says Franck Coudert, manager of the Dune-Les Flots Bleus campsite.

We had invested two million euros to redo the campsite in accordance with the rules, and the obligations in terms of fire prevention had already been met: smoke detectors in the mobile homes, fire extinguishers, a 50-metre zone to be maintained around the campsite, etc

If tomorrow we have to add more, we will add more.


“The President of the Republic very quickly assured the campsites that they could reopen next season, but under slightly different conditions”, recalls, for his part, Renaud Laheurte.

With the fires, the landscape will indeed change, since part of the forest has been destroyed, or will be, when the dead wood has to be cut.

“A before and after” 2022

In the short term, "this will make these campsites visible" from the top of the dune, while these facilities have been forced to make arrangements to have the least possible visual impact, since the Pilat site has been classified.

This will also result in less shadow areas for these structures.

"We must therefore find a way to mitigate the impact they can have," continues the representative of the State.

We are working with them on this subject, and the reopening in the summer of 2023 will take place with temporary arrangements.

We could consider green sails to shade and hide the buildings, it is an option.


Gathered in the Campyla association, the five disaster-stricken campsites help each other to find solutions.

That of the Flots Bleus still has buildings standing (the reception, the grocery store, the administration, the restaurant) and could, for this reason, be one of the first to reopen.

Franck Coudert hopes for a reopening, even partial, “from next spring, as usual.

"The lack of shade is a problem, he acknowledges however, and indeed we are thinking about installing shade sails on mobile homes and pitches, to accommodate people in the best conditions.


“We are going to submit a project to the authorities by the end of the year, continues the manager, and they will tell us what we can or cannot do.

We are interested in new energies, in the recovery of water, in the reuse of wood for fences.

We want to start again with wooden frame buildings rather than hard, and why not become a pilot site for the creation of campsites?


For all these actors, it is now clear that there will be "a before and an after" to the fires of the summer of 2022.


Fires in Gironde: "Taking advantage of such damage to increase biodiversity is a good thing", according to a researcher


Fires in Gironde: Deer, lizards… What remains of the fauna in the devastated forests?

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