Forest Fires: Protecting Vegetation From Fires

Published on Friday 29 May 2020

Crédits : A. Bouissou / Terra
Nine out of ten forest fires are caused by humans and one in two is linked to carelessness. In order to protect ourselves from fires and preserve vegetation, we need to adopt the right actions and behaviours.

Forest fires : prevention and staying safe

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Forest fires : prevention and staying safe

The Ministry for an Ecological and Inclusive Transition, in conjunction with the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, is renewing its campaign to prevent forest fires, from 15th June to 18th August 2020. Given the weather conditions in recent months, all vegetation is particularly dry. We must adopt the correct behaviour in order to protect nature spots, such as forests, fields, fallow land, etc. The entire national territory is affected by this fire risk.

Preventing fire, protecting forest land and vegetation

A discarded cigarette butt, a barbecue, flammable items stored too close to homes, spark-ignition tools used near natural spaces: these seemingly harmless acts can cause fires to break out on forest land or in nature spots, such as fields or fallow land. After spending several weeks in lockdown, we will certainly want to enjoy the outdoors: we must be all the more careful and adopt responsible behaviour. Nowadays, 80% of fires are started less than 50 metres from homes.

Crédits : MTES

Fire risk: year-round prevention

While these preventive measures apply mainly in the summer (a high-risk period), fire prevention should be a year-round task, notably:

  • clearing the brush from around your house: a plot of land with the brush cleared allows fire to pass through without causing much damage and makes fire fighters’ work easier;
  • preparing your home: through organisation and maintenance; a building's design can make it less vulnerable to fire (using durable and airtight materials, cleaning roofs and gutters, keeping hazardous and flammable materials at least 10 metres away).

Climate change, drought, and fire risk

This year, weather conditions are particularly conducive to wildfire outbreaks in forest land and sensitive natural areas. Météo-France reports that the drought of 2019, combined with the climatic conditions of recent months—high temperatures, scarcity of rainfall, and strong gusts of wind—leads to all kinds of vegetation being particularly vulnerable. Rising temperatures and wind induce evapotranspiration in plants that are forced to draw more water from the soil in order to compensate for this loss of water in the plant. When vegetation can no longer find enough water in the soil to maintain a balance, it becomes drier and acts as fuel when fires break out.


This is the number of metropolitan forests subject to high fire risk from 2050 (source: Mission interministérielle changement climatique et extension des zones sensibles aux feux de forêts – Interministerial Mission on Climate Change and Extension of Forest Fire Sensitive Areas).

An increase in fires in France

With the effects of climate change, new areas will be more exposed to the risk of fire, particularly in the northwest of France (Pays de la Loire, Centre-Val de Loire, and Brittany). In already affected areas, such as Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, Occitanie, Corsica, and the Pyrenean departments of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, the risk of fire could extend to medium-altitude mountains. It is also likely that the forest fire season will lengthen over the year, from the current three months to six months in the near future. Fires are expected to gain in intensity and speed due to increased drought, and the increased number of large fires could lead to sharp declines in forest stands in the most exposed regions.




What future if we do nothing ? (Météo France) / In french

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Heat waves, snow cover, soil moisture…: what development in mainland France in the case of a scenario without climate policy?

A communication kit at your disposal (in french)

Local actors are very involved and regularly carry out preventive measures. But certain types of behaviour are even more worthy of being publicised. This is why the Ministry for an Ecological and Inclusive Transition, in conjunction with the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, is launching a national forest fire awareness and prevention campaign for the third year running. This year, the whole of mainland France is implicated in this campaign. This applies not just to forest fires, but to all other types of vegetation fires as well (fallow land, roadsides and railway embankments, fields, moors, ferns, etc.). The purpose of this campaign is to publicize advices and recommendations to follow in the event of a forest or vegetation fire, as much to ensure that people don’t start a fire themselves as to advise how to protect oneself should a fire break out.

Crédits : MTES