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As the Var burns!

Posted by stgeorge-182529 - Created: 16 years ago
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10 replies (Showing replies: 1 to 10)

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Posted by Aroncb - 16 years ago

If its not built on. 

Again I'll bow to your knowledge St George.  :-)  Never knew Mankind had it in him to turn a rocky mountain region to a woody mountain region.  Hope for amazon yet.  I hope they throw the book at the arsonists.

This year was already significantly down apparently for tourists even before the fires.

How long did it take for the forests to rejuvinate in the 80's fires?


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Posted by Aroncb - 16 years ago

If its not built on. 

Again I'll bow to your knowledge St George.  :-)  Never knew Mankind had it in him to turn a rocky mountain region to a woody mountain region.  Hope for amazon yet.  I hope they throw the book at the arsonists.

This year was already significantly down apparently for tourists even before the fires.

How long did it take for the forests to rejuvinate in the 80's fires?


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Posted by MC-182293 - 16 years ago

Serious but perhaps stupid question:

Is it OK to light a barbecue now?! How strict is the fire ban at the moment?


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Posted by Crystal Balls-184435 - 16 years ago

According to last night bulletin on FR3, the average burn for the 90's in this area is about 20,000 hectares - this year we're up to 30,000.

1990 and 1991 had burns of over 60,000 hectares and 1985 had 90,000 hectares.

The tourists have come back year after year since.

Apart from the loss of human lives including the tragic loss of the young girl and her grandmother, this year is not exceptional.

The forest will recover.


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Posted by stgeorge-182529 - 16 years ago

Aroncb !

Scientific and archeological researches indicate that Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Age peoples were present in the back country of the Alpes Maritimes up to at least 8000 years ago and VI - V BC saw the Phonecians invading Marseilles with the Ligurians settling in the back country. The climate has not changed noticeably in this expanse of time , but the vegetation has !!

Records indicate that the forest fire syndrome has only been present for the last 150 years at the most !!

The early settlers of this region were involved in agricultural and pastoral activities as far back as what we now know as the Alpes de Haut Provence , concentrated in villages in the collines surrounded by fields for sheep and cattle , and groves of olive and fruit trees together with other vegetable and fodder crops. The burning off of stubble at the end of harvest was a commonplace and necessary ritual practiced by all the farming community over the thousands of years and kept under control . However as agriculture died out below 800 metres,( the limit of the olive tree ) and above 1000 metres ( too cold in the winter ) people moving south to gain access to the  trading points ( Nice,Cannes,Marseilles,Toulon etc ), the forest and pinede took over , but not as we know it now - it was a more temperate type of tree - oak , ash , elm , hardy pine species and fruit woods , with the undergrowth that went with this type of vegetation. What in fact you might find about 15 miles north of Sospel now ! The pine tree we have seen burning brightly over the last couple of weeks is not an indiginous species and has been planted as being attractive to look at , quick growing and self propagating in an acidic limestone soil - inevitably , related plants and shrubs go with them , especially in the Var !! There isn't the fire hazard problem at the same height above sea level the further east you go as the vegetation hasn't been tampered with quite so much.

As an aside , whilst watching the catastophe on TV tonight , the full swimming pools with the villas nothing but burnt out shells was very noticeable - don't these people have pumps for just such a contingency as a forest fire situation ? If they hadn't kept the scrub and brush down around their properties into the bargain ..................??

Will the panicked campers and holiday makers ( about 20,000 ) who had to be evacuated last night , come back next year ? Will the people who've lost their homes in the fires rebuild or go somewhere else ? How many people who are reading this forum remember the forest fires of the early 80's and are still in the Var ? 


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Posted by Andrew.Wilk - 16 years ago

The other week I ventured up the top of Mont Boron / Mont Alban, (past Elton's villa, if you must know, in search of the rumoured jogging David Beckham), and there at the picnic tables was a permanent establishment of pompiers, four young men  sprawled out snoozing in the shade, in full uniform, one hell of a suntan all of them, fire-engine permanently at the ready.  The hills are riddled with sprinkler systems ready to douse any flames that might engulf, amongst other things, Elton's piano. It occured to me at the time it might make more sense for them to be watering the dry hillside daily so it is not so flamable - rather than to hang around doing nothing in case things catch fire. Or is that too sensible? It takes only one malign individual or crackpot to torch the place. The French could do more to plan for the follies of human nature, but perhaps it seems a trifle un-Gallic?

Not to make light of this tragedy, no pun intended.




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Posted by fluffy-183839 - 16 years ago

We were in the thick of it. We live on the east side of the golf course, in Pins Pignons ll. I felt the smoke at 3.30pm and the wind direction was straight at us, luckily with the golf course in between. We had to leave the house at 6.30 because it was like dooms day, the sun was gone. The power went a few minutes earlier and I couldn't get my car out, so we had to run down the hill. In the panic we forgot to lock the house (looters?!) but my wife took check books, credit cards and jewellry. I got back to the house at 10.30 and the fire was no more 250 meters away, but it was really all over by then.

Of course it will happen again, anywhere, anytime before we get some heavy thundery showers.

Yes, I heard there is a law now saying you're not allowed to build on burnt land for ten years. But, on the other hand there are many pressure groups out there who don't want any more new constuction in this area.

It is a fantastic area to live in, let's take care about it.


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Posted by Matilda-184496 - 16 years ago

This is all very distressing.  Does anyone no were I can obtain up to the minute reliable information on these fires please?

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Posted by legend_in_my_lunchtime-182603 - 16 years ago

I was called out by a friend last night to rescue two other friends who had left their burning home in St Maxime at 18:30 and managed to get as far as Le Lavandou around 23:30 before running out of gas and becoming stranded for the night.  All the gas stations in St Maxime and St Tropez were either cut off from electricity or shut for safety. 

Leaving the comfortable safety of the Alpes MAritimes, heading into the beautiful Var at midnight, I was blocked from exiting the autoroute at Fréjus (understandable as it looked like a scene from "Apocalypse Now"), then blocked again at Puget, Le Muy, Le Cannet du Maure, and Puget Ville - had to make the huge 200km "grand tour" through Colobrières and over the spectacularly winding "col de Babaou" to be sufficiently west of the fire to be safe.  Huge mistral gusts were bringing down branches and the car was lashed by leaves and gravel in every turn as I first climbed and then plunged downwards through the route du col towards Bormes les Mimosas and Le Lavandou.  Occasionally I would get glimpses of the glow in the sky at Fréjus far to the east and I prayed to God to protect my winding wind-torn way across the col from such ravages.

I found my friends at Le Lavandou on the beach, tired but calm and safe .  The return journey was also dramatic.  Opting not to bring my friends (one pregnant) through the dangerous route du col once more, we made the longer western detour to Toulon and then A57/A8 to Fréjus.  Autoroute gas stations at Hyère were on skeleton staff and overwhelmed by the exodus (mostly tourists who did not understand the night time precautions of having to pre-pay for gas) - scenes of panic and exasperation, tears and hugs and war-time spirit.  We met a British holidaymaker who had been forced to de-couple his caravan from his car in order to escape the flames, such was the speed at which they were advancing upon him and his family.  He had left his wife in hospital in Toulon in a state of shock and was driving to Nice to meet the first flight in from UK with a courier carrying special medication that had been lost when the caravan was engulfed.  We chose not to add to his anguish by telling of the loss of my friend's house. We gave him details of the autoroute conditions and wished him good luck.  The journey east towards Fréjus was ultra fast as not many people wanted to go that way.  As the exit at Puget sur Argens was open this time, I thought I could cut cross-country to Bagnols to take my rescued friends to another friend's home with beds for what remained of the night.  Alas, the fire had shifted from Fréjus/Puget to  La Bouveraie and for some reason we wee permitted to get quite close to the purple/orange glow before police municipale turned us back once again to the autoroute for another 50 km. detour up through les Adrets and Lac St. Cassien to safety at 5 a.m.

Meanwhile, our friends awaiting our arrival held a prayer vigil and praying for the wicked mistral wind to drop.  Miraculously, it did.  All but one of the seats of fire dropped to manageable proportions around dawn as the mistral gave up its anger. 

My friend has lost his home, I've just lost a night's sleep and some nervous energy.  I refuse to lose faith in humanity despite this morning's news that molotov cocktails had been used to start some blazes.  I have a deep feeling of sadness that such wicked destruction can be wreaked for pleasure, greed or just malice. However, all along this journey we saw hundreds of army, pompiers, police municipale and gendarmes.  These heros have more than restored my faith in humanity that could easily be lost by dwelling upon acts of destruction caused by criminals.  The professionalism of the rescuers and fire-fighters was awe-inspiring - firm safety & evacuation procedures - speeding the traffic away from danger, doing their best to speak broken English, German, Italian whatever was necessary to comfort people and get them to safety.   

"Nous allons gagner" were the words I heard from the Fire Chief on France Info as I cruised back to the Alpes Maritimes this morning.

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Posted by yjme-181229 - 16 years ago

Five deaths, including a Dutch and an English woman, dozens of houses completely destroyed, 20,000 people evacuated in one area alone, and apparently with 15 fires started simultaneously in one area yesterday, the majority of the fires were most certainly started intentionally with the famous bottles of........One psychiatric patient has already been sentenced to 18 months imprisonment and Mr Chirac has vowed tougher penalties for any offenders.

I would also really like to 'rendre hommage' to all those firemen, for the most part volunteers as MikeP pointed out. I will try and be even more generous at Christmas when they come round with their calendars for donations. Fire is so frightening. My children were in St. Maxime yesterday, with the centre aeré at Aqualand. They saw hectares of smouldering forest on the way back in the coach, but thankfully were not in any danger.  But it makes you think......