6 tips on how to protect your French property from wildfires

PUBLISHED: 17:45 27 July 2021 | UPDATED: 09:16 30 July 2021

Battling the wildfire in Aude - Photo Securite Civile

Battling the wildfire in Aude - Photo Securite Civile

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Unfortunately with warmer weather comes dried vegetation that turns into kindling and strong gusts of wind that create a perfect landscape for spreading wildfires. Therefore, how can you best equip your home in France and protect it from wildfire?

Over 800 hectares of land between Carcassonne and Narbonne in the Alaric massif in Aude was on fire over the July 25-26 weekend, and firefighters continued until Monday to try and get it under control. 90 people had to be evacuated from the village of Fontcouverte, and over 850 firefighters were in attendance, with 152 “airdrops” of water being made in the process and thousands of households without electricity across France, Spain, and even Portugal.

Protecting your home from the risk of fire is important, especially if your area is prone to wildfire or you leave your house unattended for a while. These measures will hopefully minimise the risk of fire spreading to your home:

1. Vegetation turns into kindling

Removing dead vegetation from plants and lower branches from tall trees, specifically pine and juniper as they contain oils, is a good way of ensuring that any embers carried with the wind don’t have anything dry and easy to ignite in their path. Regularly water your plants or arrange for a neighbour to do so if you are away.

2. Clear your gutters

Embers can land in gutters, on your roof or even blow it into a window, so make sure you keep your gutters clear of leaves and twigs that might fuel any fires, and windows shut if there’s a fire nearby.

3. Store fuel safely

Firewood and propane tanks pose a clear problem, and so keeping them a good distance from your house is a safe option, preferably 10m away. That also applies to anything organic that is a fuel source, manure piles on farms have been known to start fires that ravage the countryside. Store fuel cans away from sunlight and in a safe area.

4. Wood is naturally combustible

Treat any timber in or around your house such as in an old barn. Rotten dry wood is a highly combustible material, posing risks not just from wildfires but also of structural integrity.

5. Keep the grass cut

Mowing the garden and keeping the grass short and free from dead vegetation will minimise the risk of fire spreading, creating a ring of defence around your home. Some prefer controlled burning to scorch the land, but this must be managed safely and is not advised unless carried out with extreme caution.

6. Don’t start fires (yes really!)

Avoid having a barbecue, lighting a bonfire, or dropping a cigarette near dry vegetation, as these have all been known to cause devastating wildfires that spread quickly during the summer.

If you do discover a fire, alert the emergency services as soon as possible by calling the Sapeurs Pompiers on 18 or 112. Avoid attempting to blow the fire out as this can spread it further, water or sand can be used to attempt to distinguish a wildfire.

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