Senate report recommends action to prevent wildfires from flaring up

The Senate has just published an information report on the prevention and fight against the intensification and extension of the fire risk, in particular to deal with the emergence of extraordinary fires. Grouped into 8 areas, 70 recommendations are formulated in the document to meet this challenge.

Since the 1980s, the French strategy of massive attack on incipient fires has proved its worth. The wooded areas burned were indeed divided by five between the periods 1980-1989 and 2015-2020. Despite everything, France must prepare for an unfavorable development riskgenerated by global warming as well as by the increase in forest biomass. In the past two years, France has experienced three of the largest fires to have affected its territory in the past 40 years. And in 2050, experts predict that nearly 50% of metropolitan moors and forests could be affected by a high fire risk, compared to a third in 2010.

The Senate has just published a information report¹ relating to the prevention and fight against the intensification and extension of the fire risk. The authors of this report make this initial observation: “While the effectiveness of the French firefighting strategy is a model in Europe and in the world, this asset will no longer be enough to cope with the increased fire risk and in particular the emergence of outsized fires”. To meet this challenge, 70 recommendations are formulated in the document and grouped into 8 axes.

Faced with its rapid development, the senators recommend developing a national interdepartmental risk anticipation strategy. The success of this strategy is based on improved knowledge and data on forest and vegetation fires. This is why one of the measures recommended by the rapporteurs is to reverse the 500 job cuts at the ONF (National Forestry Office) planned between now and 2025. This, in order to “Restore posts for Mediterranean forest protection officers and redeploy more personnel to defend against forest fires outside this area. »

Encourage owners to clear their land

In terms ofterritory Developmentan axis of prevention must consist in better regulating the interface between the forest and the urban zones to reduce the departures of fires and the vulnerability. “Brush clearing is an essential preventive measure against fires, making it possible to reduce their intensity and limit their spread”, notes the report. On the regulatory level, there are legal clearing obligations (OLD), but these are unfortunately too little applied, since the completion rate is often less than 30%. The senators therefore recommend making the deductible compulsory in home insurance contracts in the event of non-compliance with the legal obligations of clearing and increasing its amount beyond the maximum limit currently provided for.

While forest biomass has been increasing steadily since the 1980s, less than half of the annual growth is harvested. However, managing the forest sustainably is one of the first firewalls. Noting that private forests, which represent three-quarters of French forests, are insufficiently managed, one of the key measures of the report consists of lowering the threshold for the obligation of sustainable management documents for private forests to 20 hectares, compared to 25 to date.

During their hearings, the senators observed that the mayors would like to manage the forest more to prevent fires, but the fact that the properties are very fragmented and have multiple statuses (user forest, section property) complicates their task. The rapporteurs therefore recommend “to establish a right of pre-emption for plots of forest presenting an issue with regard to the defense of forests against fire, for the benefit of the municipalities committing to integrate the plot into the forest regime. »

Prescribe the carrying out of agricultural work at night

The mobilization of the agricultural world is also an important axis in the prevention of fires. By creating discontinuities in vegetation, pastoral and agricultural activities play the role of firewalls protecting the forest. Except that this forest/farmland interface is also exposed to risk. The rapporteurs recommend allowing the prefect to prescribe the carrying out of agricultural work (harvesting, etc.) at night in the event of a high fire risk.

Given that 90% of fires are of human origin, user awareness is also an essential area on which it is important to act. Among their recommendations, the senators advise “Mobilize the budget of local authorities to recruit, train and equip young people from the National Universal Service (SNU), in order to prevent and raise awareness among forest users during periods of risk. »

The fight against the increase in the risk of fire will also involve increasing the material means to deal with it. Because the French fleet today seems insufficient to meet this challenge. It is therefore appropriate “to increase the civil protection budget to allow the acquisition of air resources (aircraft and helicopters) commensurate with the risk and to rely, as necessary, on the rental of aircraft”says the report.

Finally, when neither prevention nor the fight have made it possible to avoid a disaster, comes the reforestation stage, requiring financial aid from the State and a reflection on the species to be planted, which must reconcile adaptation to the station. forestry and fire resistance. The senators advise “condition state aid on choices of species and management adapted to the fire risk (for example by maintaining firebreaks, experimenting with hardwood corridors or lower population density). »

¹ The information report was written by the following senators: Mr. Jean Bacci, Mrs. Anne-Catherine Loisier, Mr. Pascal Martin and Mr. Olivier Rietmann

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