Forest Fires Ravage Southern France

Forest Fire

While flood conditions continue to disrupt the United States' Golf Coast, French citizens and tourists alike are left begging for rain as wildfires continue to burn their way through the country's south. Despite containment efforts, over 12,000 locals and tourists to the popular French Riviera have been forced to evacuate. The dry end of summer has led to similar conditions in both Portugal and Italy, thus impacting tourism along the Mediterranean Coast.

For days now the coastal portions of France have faced high temperatures, powerful winds, and a lack of rainfall characteristic of the transition from summer to fall. These conditions are the essential "perfect storm" ingredients for wildfires, a fact proven on Tuesday when blazes broke out near Bormes-les-Mimosas, a coastal community in the French Riviera, and on the northern section of the island of Corsica on Monday. Since then, fires have sprung up near Artigues, Saint-Tropez, La Croix-Valmer, La Lavandou, and several other small communes and towns along France's southern coast.

Late August is a popular period for tourists to the region, further complicating efforts to deal with the unpredictable wildfires. In Bormes-les-Mimosas, a group of 12,000 comprised of both tourists and locals was forced to evacuate to gymnasiums and, in some cases, camp out on the coast. Campers near Saint-Tropez, many of them British tourists, were forced to pick up their tents and relocate to one of the town's resort beaches.

French emergency services have mobilized tremendous manpower and resources in an effort to fight the string of wildfires. Some 600 firefighters supported by five airplanes conducted nearly 100 separate operations from Monday onward. In their efforts to contain the flames, emergency authorities set fire to a startling 3,210 acres of public land in controlled burns. The wildfires themselves have consumed much more than this, with blazes near Artigues destroying 4200 acres of forest and another near La Croix Valmer torching two homes, injuring a firefighter, and consuming another 1,235 acres of forested land. The island of Corsica saw the greatest damage, with 4,950 acres of its northern forests reduced to ash.

While Toulon's airport was briefly out of service for parts of Wednesday, tourists have mostly made the best of the situation. To date the fires have not injured any tourists or residents thanks to the rapid deployment of emergency services. The French government has advised travelers to closely monitor announcements before continuing on with their vacation plans.

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