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Fires: “The danger will be greater in space and time”

Fires: “The danger will be greater in space and time”

Interview with Mathieu Regembo, Head of the Agricultural Department of the Meteorological Services Department of Météo-France

How does climate change increase the risk of fire?
By drying up vegetation, climate change is increasing the meteorological risk of wildfires. We have simulated meteorological conditions up to the end of the century and thus note that meteorological conditions specific to wildfire sensitivity tend to be of interest to the entire region. Added to this spatial extension is a temporal one with a season leading up to wildfires that can start earlier and end later, with their intensification in areas around the Mediterranean Sea or some already highly sensitive forests.

What kind of lights are you talking about?
Fire risk prediction is mainly directed towards wildfires and forest fires, in other words, those involving trees and conifers but also low vegetation. In the context of huge fires, we find ourselves in more severe conditions for which the forest weather forecast map is not enough. On the other hand, our information is provided to civil security as part of our expert assistance, which is carried out by regional forecasters.

The current drought increases the risk…
With drought, the sensitivity of vegetation to fire increases. Plants dry out and become more flammable and thus increase the risk of fires starting and spreading.

Is the current rain likely to mitigate the risks?
It depends on how much precipitation has fallen. At first, a few millimeters of rain will suffice to wet the surface litter. On the other hand, it takes tens of millimeters to mitigate the primary drought, which has not yet happened throughout the territory.

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How do we fight fires?
Knowing that 9 out of 10 fires are of human origin, even if climate change predicts an increase in the meteorological conditions that lead to fires, we can hope to work to reduce them mainly on human behaviour.