Bastien Guerche/Sécurité civile

Forest fires and wildfires

Let’s behave responsibly

Remember to clear vegetation, before and after the summer!


Le feu est alors difficile à contrôler, car il se propage rapidement dans le feuillage des arbres et d'un arbre à l'autre, notamment lorsque les branches se touchent. La masse combustible étant très importante, le front de flammes généré est très puissant, difficilement maîtrisable et peut occasionner des dégâts importants.

Une simple étincelle peut dégénérer en un incendie nécessitant d’importants moyens de secours en moins d’un quart d’heure, surtout quand les conditions sont favorables (sécheresse, température élevée, vent...).

C’est pourquoi il est primordial de débroussailler son terrain. L'automne et l'hiver sont les meilleures périodes pour effectuer les travaux les plus lourds.


Consulter la FAQ sur les feux de forêt 


What is meant by ground clearing ?

Ground clearing means reducing the density of plants and creating gaps in the vegetation growing between:

  • Cover vegetation (grasses and scrub) and taller plants (bushes and trees);
  • Plants of the same size;
  • Vegetation and buildings.

Creating gaps reduces the fire risk and, if a fire does occur, slows down its spread and lowers its intensity. The residents of certain regions have an obligation to keep their properties clear. This is governed by official vegetation clearing rules. Hence, property owners are required to clear vegetation within 50 metres of their buildings and installations (house, garden shed, swimming pool, etc.). In some cases, by decision of the mayor or prefect, this distance is increased to 100 metres. Besides your own garden, this may also concern any undeveloped plots belonging to your neighbours, if these are within 50 metres of your buildings. In this event, the neighbours are under obligation to allow you access to their land. Refusal makes them legally liable and they will then be required to pay for any vegetation clearing operations carried out. To answer any questions you may have on this topic, ONF has put together an FAQ page (frequently asked questions).


Why clear vegetation ?

Vegetation-clearing measures are mandatory in identified fire-risk areas. This is essential in order to:

  • prevent fires from starting: 90% of fires are caused by humans. When the vegetation is dry, the slightest spark can cause a fire;
  • protect your home and its occupants: in the event of a fire, it is then possible and even recommended to take shelter indoors, unless instructed otherwise by the authorities. Staying inside for 10 to 15 minutes may be enough to allow the fire to pass;
  • secure fire brigade access and facilitate their intervention;
  • protect the forest and the environment: besides limiting the spread of fire, the reduction of vegetation can also help to preserve a diversity of species. Indeed, once cleared, the soil benefits from more daylight which, among other advantages, encourages the creation of green corridors and feeding zones for various wildlife species such as bats and certain birds of prey.


How to clear vegetation properly ?

Vegetation should be cleared every year. It is recommended to cut tree branches and prune shrubs in the winter if possible. Cover plants, on the other hand, can be dealt with towards the end of spring. Vegetation clearing is compatible with biodiversity, especially when your calendar of operations takes into consideration the degree of vulnerability of the zones to be cleared. It may be necessary to call upon a professional, who has the knowledge and tools required, especially if you’re clearing for the first time.


What are the possible consequences of non-compliance?

In the event that vegetation clearing rules are not observed, you expose yourself to a fine (ranging from a fixed amount of €135 to a rate of €30 per uncleared square metre), as well as formal notice with a penalty charge, an appeal filed by the mayor (the local council has the work done and sends the invoice to the owner), and a demand to pay an excess charge in the event of an insurance claim. Besides these legal proceedings, it is quite simply dangerous to leave a plot uncleared and vulnerable to fire. This puts the buildings and their occupants at risk. On land that has been cleared of vegetation, a house is much less likely to burn down.

photo OLD


What can I do with my garden waste ?

This biodegradable waste can be shredded, buried, added to your own compost bin, or taken to your local recycling centre. Enquire at your town hall about the handling of garden waste by the local council or council community.

Que faire de mes déchets ? Entrez un déchet

Does this obligation apply to me?

Click on the image below to find out if your address is concerned by the legal obligation to clear vegetation (purple zones).


It is mandatory to clear vegetation in risk areas designated by law or by the department prefect. Within these departments, the legal obligation to clear vegetation applies to homeowners and the proprietors of any type of building or installation located in or within 200 metres of a forest, heath, or scrubland area. If this is the case, vegetation must be cleared from land within 50 metres of such installations. This obligation also applies to any urban areas identified in a local urbanisation plan and located in the aforementioned zones.


Is it recommended to clear vegetation even if the obligation doesn’t concern me?

If your plot of land is not affected by the vegetation clearing rules, you are under no obligation to do so. However, it is highly recommended if you live near woodland.



As mayor, I’d like to know more about vegetation clearing obligations

Hervé is unaware that his angle grinder is about to cause a fire at a campsite.  out of  fires are caused by humans.

How can fire be caused by a cigarette end?

9 out of 10 forest fires are caused by humans, partly through carelessness in most cases.

Climate change is causing droughts and heatwaves to increase in both frequency and intensity in France. When the vegetation is very dry due to lack of rain, a fire may start and then spread very quickly. An unextinguished cigarette end, a still smouldering barbecue or a spark generated by DIY tools or fireworks can set light to grass or undergrowth. The fire quickly gains in intensity.

The rate at which it spreads depends on a number of factors, such as the wind, type of vegetation, lay of the land, nature of the soils and so on. In less than 10 minutes, the flaming front can cover one kilometre and result in an uncontrollable fire that spreads to forests, hedges, fields, homes and other buildings. Red-hot debris carried by the wind can also cause new fires to start, up to a kilometre or more beyond the initial flaming front.

Adopt responsible behaviour to avoid starting a fire.

You can also enquire at your local prefecture for further details. In the fire-risk season, vehicles and pedestrians may be advised not to enter woodland or heathland areas, to which access may even be prohibited. Barbecues, fireworks or any form of fire may be forbidden. Restrictions or even a ban on the use of farming and forestry machinery or spark-generating work tools (shredders, strimmers, chain saws, welders, etc.) may be introduced. Non-compliance with prevention rules issued by the public authorities can result in a fine of up to €750.

In the event of a fire leading to the destruction or deterioration of property or endangering human lives, whether caused deliberately or simply through negligence, the perpetrator is exposed to sanctions such as a fine, a prison sentence, and the obligation to pay damages.

Découvrez les spots TV

How to avoid starting a fire?

J'organise les barbecues sur une terrasse et loin de la végétation qui peut s'enflammer.

Fires caused by barbecues

Organise your barbecues at home, on a patio and well away from vegetation, which may catch alight.

Si je fume, je dépose mes mégots dans un cendrier et je ne les jette jamais au sol ou par la fenêtre de ma voiture.

Cigarette butts

Use an ash tray to dispose of cigarette ends. Do not smoke in the forest.

Si j'effectue des travaux sources d'étincelles, je m'éloigne de la végétation, qui pourrait s'enflammer.

Sparks from work tools

DIY work should be carried out away from lawns and dry grass, and you should have a fire extinguisher at hand, just in case.

What to do in the event of a fire starting?

En cas de départ de feux, j'appelle le 112, le 18 ou le 114 (pour les personnes sourdes ou malentendantes).

Raise the alert

If you notice a fire starting, raise the alert by dialling 112, 18 or 114 (for the hard of hearing), and try to locate the fire with precision.

En cas de feu, je me protège en m'enfermant dans ma maison ou un bâtiment.

Protecting yourself

Take shelter in a cleared property while waiting for the emergency services to intervene. The car is not a safe place as it could burn.

Rester informé

Stay informed

Keep up-to-date with the situation and observe any instructions given by the emergency services or the local council.

How to protect your home in the event of fire?

Avant l'arrivée du front de flammes, je rentre mon tuyau d'arrosage. Il me sera utile lorsque les autorités m'autoriseront à ressortir, pour éteindre les dernières braises dans mon jardin.


Take your garden hose indoors before the fire reaches you. You may need it to extinguish the embers once the fire has passed.

Pour me protéger des fumées toxiques qui pourraient entrer chez moi, je couvre/ferme toutes les aérations.


Block air vents and cover the gaps under doors to prevent toxic smoke and sparks from entering your home.

Pour me protéger des fumées toxiques, je me couvre le visage d'un linge humide.

Damp cloth

Cover your nose and mouth with a damp cloth to protect yourself from the smoke.

How to protect your home in anticipation?

Si possible, je ne stocke pas les combustibles contre ma maison : ce sont des activateurs de feu et ils représentent un risque pour ma maison en cas de feu.


Any inflammable substances or materials (wood, gas cylinders) should be stored in a closed shelter at a distance from your home.

Tout au long de l'année, j'entretiens mon jardin : c'est une façon de protéger ma maison et la forêt.

Ground clearing

Before the summer, clear the area around your home, cutting vegetation short and trimming trees so that they don’t touch one another. The aim is to prevent the fire from reaching your house. These measures are mandatory in identified fire-risk areas.

Certaines zones sont couvertes par un plan de prévention du risque incendie de forêt, qui régule les constructions.


If you live in an area covered by a forest fire risk prevention plan, equip your house with appropriate safety features (shutters, gutters, roofing, ventilation, etc.).

Find out the level of risk in your area


Fires in 2022

2022 was a year that made history for several reasons:

  • a drought of exceptionally long duration;
  • a combination of generally high temperatures and heatwave periods that make it the hottest year on record for Météo-France;
  • forest fires that were impressive in number, intensity and the extent of the surface area left devastated, as well as the fact that they affected regions rarely concerned by such events, including Brittany, Jura, Anjou and the Centre region of France.

In all, 72,000 hectares of natural spaces were destroyed by the fires of 2022 (6 times more than average).

After the lessons learnt that summer, the President of France announced a plan of action aiming to:

  • Improve fire prevention measures: the means available to ONF (national forestry office) and Météo-France (national meteorological service) have been reinforced for the 2023-2024 period; a communication campaign on the legal obligation of clearing vegetation has been announced; a map indicating the different areas’ degree of vulnerability to forest fires is to be produced;
  • Strengthen the means available to fire and rescue services in terms of both equipment and human resources;
  • Replant the forest with a view to its sustainable management, and implement a reforestation plan: the 10-year targets of the national forest replanting project have been announced, with the planting of a billion trees by 2030.
Terra - Arnaud Bouissou



The forest plays a major role in the fight against climate change (carbon trapping, replacement of fossil fuels and high-energy materials, etc.) and in the protection of biodiversity. To accentuate the carbon-sink effect of the forest, from this year the French government is funding the reconstitution of those forests impacted by the fires: 150 million euros are being made available for 2023. This aid to owners of both public and private forestland is part of a wider scheme to support the renewal and adaptation of forests in the face of climate change. It reflects the French President’s expressed determination to have a billion trees planted and to renew 10 per cent of the nation’s forest within ten years. The aim is to improve, adapt, regenerate or reconstitute our tree populations. Tree populations affected by the forest fires will be eligible. This reforestation aid will be managed by ADEME (French environmental agency). It is planned to introduce stronger environmental criteria to encourage more mixing of varieties and a wider diversity of trees, and to protect zones of ecological interest.

Terra - Arnaud Bouissou


Forest weather report

Last October, the President of France announced, among other items, the creation of a forest weather report in the aim of keeping the population better informed in fire-risk areas. Météo-France will begin broadcasting this new information to indicate the level of fire risk in mainland France and Corsica, from 1 June 2023. The information will be based on the forecasts of several meteorological parameters that greatly impact the likelihood of fires starting and the speed at which they spread: rainfall, humidity, temperature, wind force and the extent of dryness of the vegetation. The daily forest weather report will be available at the end of each afternoon on the website and via the Météo-France mobile app for the two days ahead. It will take the form of two maps, one for the following day, the other for the day after that). The level of fire risk will be indicated for each French department, with 4 colour-coded levels: green for low risk, yellow for moderate risk, orange for high risk, and red for extreme risk. The forest weather report will not give details of ongoing fires or those to come.

Ayons les bons réflexes.

The consequences of fire

The effects of climate change

Already visible consequences


The effects of climate change, including dryer, hotter summers, are already being felt across the world. The past seven years have been the hottest ever recorded according to the most recent report from Copernicus, the European Union’s Earth observation service. According to Météo-France, 2022 was the hottest year on record for mainland France. Heat and drought make vegetation more vulnerable and the slightest spark can therefore have disastrous consequences.


Much of the country affected


Historically speaking, the southern half of the country is the region most impacted by vegetation fires. The Mediterranean area is one of the 35 biodiversity trouble hotspots, i.e. a region with a huge wealth of biodiversity but one that is particularly vulnerable due to human activity. But climate change is now putting other regions at risk as well, such as northwestern France (Loire, Centre-Val de Loire and Brittany). In 2022, the Mediterranean region had less surface area destroyed by fire than the South West of France. Fires are increasing in both frequency and intensity in regions that have been largely spared in the past.  


An extended risk period


The risk of forest and vegetation fires is no longer a summer affair. The risk period is now longer, beginning in the early days of spring and lingering into autumn, as a result of late heatwaves. There are even fires in winter, including in mountainous regions that are no longer protected by snow cover. In 2022 for example, the fires began very early following a dry winter.


And the rest of the world?


Fires are becoming more frequent and increasingly destructive. In the past few years, for example, vigorous forest fires were seen in the northern hemisphere (Canada, United States, Russia, etc.) including Europe (Spain & Portugal) as well as in Australia. According to the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), record levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions were generated by these huge fires.
The 6th assessment report from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), in particular its section relating to consequences, adaptation and vulnerability (February 2022), states that meteorological conditions are increasingly conducive to wildfire occurrence in many parts of the world.

Drought, an exacerbating factor

According to Météo-France, 2022 is the hottest year on record for France. The winter of 2022-2023 appears to confirm this trend with a higher-than-normal average temperature and lack of rainfall. Even at the end of February 2023, several French departments were declared to be in a state of drought vigilance and increased alert. The vegetation is therefore even more vulnerable and the fire risk aggravated. Even the tiniest spark can have disastrous consequences.

Carte des cumuls des précipitations entre janvier et avril 2022 : l'ensemble du pays est en déficit de pluie sur la période, excepté l'ancienne région du Languedoc-Roussillon.

A prevention campaign

After the summer of 2022, which was marked by a number of intense forest fires, the President of France announced the strengthening of wildfire prevention measures. The new awareness campaign to inform the public about legal obligations to clear vegetation is one of those measures. The Ministry of Ecology Transition and Territorial Cohesion, the Ministry of the Interior and Overseas Regions and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Sovereignty are therefore jointly launching a series of communications about fire prevention, in two parts:

  • from March to May 2023, a campaign on the topic of legal vegetation-clearing obligations, to inform the people concerned by this prevention measure and compel them to comply, in the interests of their own safety and to preserve our forests;
  • from May to August 2023, a sixth national campaign for the prevention of wildfires, in order to widely encourage responsible behaviour to avert such fires and protect against them.

The combination of clearing vegetation, preventing wildfires and spreading awareness is part of the wider goal, promoted by France Nation Verte, to preserve and enhance our ecosystems.


Communication kit: responsible behaviour, spreading the word


In order to disseminate to the widest possible audience fire prevention information and the behaviour to adopt to avoid starting a fire, a communication kit is at your disposal.
With the help of this kit, you can contribute to spreading the word about responsible behaviour.



Our partners

Ils sont engagés dans la campagne d'obligation légale de débroussaillement :  


Association des maires de France et des présidents d’intercommunalité (AMF), Assurance prévention, Centre national de la proprieté forestière (CNPF), Fédération nationales des communes forestières, Fédération des magasins de bricolage et de l'aménagement de la maison (FMB), Fédération nationale des sapeurs pompier (FNSP), Fédération nationale de l'hôtellerie de plein air (FNHPA), Fédération des Syndicats de forestiers privés (Fransylva), Gîtes de France, Intercommunalité de France, Fédération des jardineries et animaleries de France, l'Institut national de recherche pour l'agriculture, l'alimentation et l'environnement (INRAE), Institut national de l'information géographique et forestière (IGN), Union nationale des entreprises du paysage (UNEP), Office nationale des forêts (ONF).

They contribute to the campaign to prevent wildfires:

Public operators and communities