France: The 1995 Fire Summer: Summary and Lessons Learned (IFFN No. 14 – January 1996)

The 1995 Fire Summer:
Summary and Lessons Learned

(IFFN No. 14 – January 1996, p. 21-23)

Between 1 January and 15 September 1995 a total of 19,000 ha of forests, wildlands, maquis and garrigue on French territory were affected by fire. The Mediterranean Departments (provinces) suffered the most: 2,300 fires destroyed 10,330 ha of forest vegetation. This last number remains lower than the mean area burned annually during the last 15 years (31,000 ha) despite the fact that the summer of 1995 experienced days of extremely high fire risk in the portions of the country west of the Rhône river (Bas-Rhône and Languedoc-Rouissillon). In Corsica, however, the year was particularly favourable with only 815 fire starts burning a total of 2,430 ha.

  Tab.1. Forest fire data for 1995 (up to 15 September) forthe Mediterranean zone of France

  Tab.2. Forest fires in the non-Mediterranean zone ofFrance in 1995 (provisional data of 30 September 1995).
Source: Ministry of Agriculture and Sécurité Civile.

A detailed analysis of fires in the Mediterranean zone shows that:

  • the total number of fires is still very high: 2,300 fires correspond to the 15-years average;
  • the surface burned was restricted to 10,330 ha out of which only half burned during the summer;
  • 95% of the fires were under control before reaching 5 ha size;
  • 27 large fires (> 100 ha) were recorded.

Thus, France is gaining the benefits from a policy which has been followed with remarkable continuity for years as much by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food as by the Ministry of the Interior, and always in partnership with the territorial administrations. In particular the strategy of fire surveillance and rapid intervention which builds on equipment available in the forest areas and the mobilization of ground-based and aerial means of fire prevention, shows its efficiency.

The creation and maintenance of agricultural clearings and forms of agroforestry hold an essential place among the management activities for areas at risk. Within the framework of the agri-environmental decree no. 207/92, the State is providing a total budget of 14.25 million francs (FF) a year over a period of 5 years, which is supplemented by the European Union, for promoting improvements to some 50,000 ha of land by farmers, based on an appropriate scales of charges. The farmers are thereby required, through compensatory payments of from 200 FF/ha/year (according to how rigorous are the obligations called for in the local agreements), to carry out work using traditional methods on cultivated land (olive groves, vineyards) or modern grazing techniques (clearings, chestnut and cork oak stands). These basic operations may be supported by suitable types of more intense intervention, such as brush clearance or grazing. One required result is the clearance of the parcel of land of its combustible vegetation by the middle of June, the date that coincides with the period of high fire risk.

From: Christian Barthod
Ministère de l’Agriculture, de la Pêche at de l’Alimentation
Direction de l’Espace Rurale et de la Forêt
Sous-Direction de la Forêt, Bureau de la Protection de la Forêt
Avenue de Lowendal
F-75700 Paris SP

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