Seventy years after the "great fire" of Gironde which ravaged tens of thousands of hectares of pines and killed 82 people, forest fires remain a recurring plague in France.
With its 16.9 million hectares covering 30% of the metropolitan territory, the French forest undergoes every year 4,000 fires that destroy a total of 11,000 hectares (figures from the Ministry of Ecological Transition).
Since 1990, the burned surfaces are decreasing but the number of fire starts remains constant. Today less than 2% of fires burn more than 100 hectares of vegetation and three quarters of fires occur in the southern half of the country.
Reminder of the great fires that have marked France since 1945:
- July 2017: refugees in Bormes -
At the end of July, in the space of a few hours, a series of fires fanned by violent winds in Haute-Corse, in Vaucluse, Bouches-du-Rhône and the Var reduced to ashes more than 7,000 hectares.
On July 26, the flames threaten the seaside resort of Bormes-les-Mimosas (Var) and 10,000 people must be evacuated. Hundreds of holidaymakers spend the night in their car or on the beach to escape the flames.
- August 2016: at the gates of Marseille -
Attacked by the mistral, several fires spread quickly north of Marseille. They arrive on August 10 at the gates of Marseille. The fire destroyed 3,300 hectares, 25 buildings, a school group and a high school, fortunately deserts.
- July 2009: Corsican drought -
A period of drought makes fears formidable at the end of July 2009 in Corsica. Gravona Valley, north of Ajaccio, Sartène and Aullène regions: more than 5,300 hectares go up in smoke.
- Summer 2003: Esterel -
At the end of July 2003, fires of criminal origin ravaged the Massif des Maures (Var), causing the death of four people and resulting in the evacuation of 6,000 holidaymakers and residents.
A month later, in Cogolin (Var), three firefighters died in their truck surrounded by flames. That summer, 20% of the Moors and Esterel were destroyed.
The summer season 2003 is just as bad for Corsica: 13,000 hectares burned and the peninsula of Cap Corse particularly bruised.
- August 1990: Moors -
The summer of 1990 is formidable for the Massif des Maures: 12,500 hectares are destroyed at the end of August. In total, the fire ravages 23,000 hectares of vegetation between Marseille and Nice from 21 to 25 August.
- 1989: Lacanau-Marseille -
The month of July 1989, particularly hot and dry, is conducive to fire starts throughout the south. On July 20th, a gigantic fire devastated 5,000 hectares of pines near the lake of Lacanau (Gironde) and forced the evacuation of thousands of holidaymakers.
At the end of August, it's Marseille's turn to be licked by the flames. On August 29, 10,000 hectares go up in smoke, in less than 24 hours, in the south-east and in Corsica.
- August 1976: The Palmyra -
The furnace of summer 76, the extreme drought and the gesture of a pyromaniac transforms the forest of La Palmyre (Charente-Maritime) into an instant fire, August 20, at the peak of the tourist season.
Hundreds of holidaymakers, trapped between the flames and the ocean, are evacuated from the beach by a number of boats. That summer, the fires burn 80,000 hectares in France, a record.
- August 1949: "big fire" -
Starting on August 19 from a sawmill in Saucats, south of Bordeaux, a terrible fire ravaged in a few days 50,000 hectares of pine trees, killing 82 people in its wake.
The victims are mainly water and forestry officers, volunteer firefighters and soldiers who came to fight the flames. This "big fire" of the Landes de Gascogne is to this day the most deadly forest fire of France.
© 2019 AFP