Fires: Parliament adopts stronger forest fire prevention rules

Measures to avoid reliving the terrible summer of 2022. Parliament definitively adopted, Thursday, June 29, by a final unanimous vote of the Senate, a bill strengthening the fight against forest fires. This senatorial text tightens the legal obligations of brush clearing for owners of land near forests, with in particular increased fines in the event of breaches. Today, only 30% of these obligations are carried out.

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It also enshrines the prohibition of smoking in the woods or forests during “periods at risk”. The periods concerned will be fixed by the prefects. Cigarette butt throwing is explicitly included among the criminally punishable causes of involuntary fire. For the most serious cases resulting in the death of one or more people, criminal penalties could reach ten years’ imprisonment and a fine of 150,000 euros.

A risk aggravated by global warming

About 90% of fire starts are of human origin, recalled the Minister Delegate for Relations with Parliament, Franck Riester. And global warming, by multiplying droughts and heat waves, increases the risk of fires. In 2022, 72,000 hectares, including 60,000 hectares of forest, went up in smoke in France. France is preparing for a new difficult summer season on the fire front. A thousand hectares have already burned in April in Cerbère, in the Pyrénées-Orientales.

A Senate monitoring mission had revealed worrying prospects: in the Mediterranean region, the areas burned could increase by 80% by 2050; nearly 50% of metropolitan moors and forests could be affected by a high fire risk, compared to a third in 2010; the high risk period will be three times longer, with winter fires which should increase, as we have already seen this year; fires on vegetation or agricultural land should also develop, including on the outskirts of cities.

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