A massive fire broke out on the morning of Monday, August 16th in France’s Var department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. It is possibly believed to have been caused by a cigarette tossed at a roadway rest area near Gonfaron (though this is still under investigation) and magnified by the intensity of the Mistral wind, strong and dry as it blows down the Rhône Valley from the north towards the Mediterranean Sea.
It has burned more than 7,100 hectares (17,500 acres), with a human toll of two dead and dozens injured. “The fire is fixed, not under control,” said Evence Richard, prefect of the Var at a press conference this morning. “The head of the fire is no longer moving.” Forces of more than 1,200 firefighters along with firefighting aircraft and engines tended to the blaze.
Portions of the Côtes de Provence winegrowing appellation were damaged in it’s wake, including British-owned Maison Mirabeau, located in Cotignac. In a statement on social media, proprietor Jeany Cronk reported that the full impact to their domaine is still being assessed, but that “everyone from Mirabeau, the animals, and the houses” were safe. Cronk credits the local firefighters and their own farmer, “who refused to back down to the fire under very tough circumstances during the night.”
Thousands of people were evacuated as a safety precaution. Reports from two other winemaking properties, Ultimate Provence and Château des Bertrands, both owned by MDCV Provence, indicate that teams from the estates made themselves available to firefighters during a 24 hour shutdown of these domaines.
The fire is still alive in the nearby Plaine des Maures Nature Reserve, which is home to a variety of flora and fauna including over 200 rare species. Of particular concern is the Hermann’s tortoise, a population that was ravaged in 2017 fires that occurred in the Var.
Meanwhile this week, vineyards and olive groves were damaged in a fire in Beaumes-de-Venise in the Vaucluse department and vegetation was burned in the Aude in Occitanie.