- 2'45 min
Forest fires: proper maintenance for better prevention
While the massive fires of 2003 saw 78,000 hectares of woodland go up in smoke in France, and 12,000 hectares lost to fires in 2017, there was a fourfold reduction in the number of forest fires between 2017 and 2018. This is mainly due to effective prevention policies. There have also been significant improvements in firefighting techniques. Today, 95% of outbreaks of fire are contained before they engulf one hectare.
Legal Brush Management Obligations (Obligations Légales de Débroussaillement – OLD) exist in wooded areas.
They apply to the following regions of France: Aquitaine and Corsica, which are particularly vulnerable, Languedoc-Roussillon, Midi-Pyrénées, Poitou-Charentes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur and Rhône-Alpes.
OLDs can be extended to other regions by prefectural order. Global warming also means that the fire season is likely to extend from May through to October, and geographically, other forest areas could also be affected, such as Jura, Loire and Puy-de-Dôme.
In addition to informing local citizens, municipal councils carry out inspections to check on the existence of any areas of excessively dense vegetation.
Fines may be imposed for infringements, and if a property owner fails to act after receiving a formal brush clearance notice, the mayor is officially authorised to have the work carried out at the owner’s expense.
Vigilance, prevention and insurance!
Private land-owning individuals have an obligation to maintain their property and control brush growth. In the event of a fire whose cause can be traced to the place of residence, home insurance may be brought into play through the owner’s civil liability. Take the example of a policyholder who, when mowing the lawn, causes a spark that sets fire to brush, which in turn leads to a forest fire. In addition to being liable to a fine for improper proper brush maintenance, the insurer may apply an additional excess of €5,000, or even refuse to pay compensation for property belonging to the policyholder.
Forest owners can take out a forest insurance policy of the type offered by Crédit Agricole Assurances via the broker XLB Assurances. However, this coverage remains under-utilised. The public authorities would like to see it extended and incentive measures have been implemented for this purpose. Consequently, since 1st January 2017, only forest owners who are insured against storm damage are entitled to benefit from any State aid that might be available. They are also entitled to a tax reduction on their insurance policy.
Even though they are insured, owners are still responsible for ensuring the proper maintenance of their forests. Crédit Agricole Assurances is therefore striving to inform its policyholders about preventive measures. This advice includes favouring the planting of tree species that burn less easily on new plantations, and providing means of access for firefighters.