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How to prevent wildfires while away from your French property

Second-home owners must still comply with wildfire prevention rules - we explain how to do this if you are out of the country

Man pruning tree

Be prepared and do difficult work such as cutting trees during autumn or winter Pic: Minerva Studio / Shutterstock

Reader Question: How can we comply with forest fire rules from the UK?

France has strict rules around débroussaillage (shrub clearing) which also apply to second-home owners. 

It is important to follow the advice even if you are not in France.

Property near woodland

The rules exist in around 40 departments (check with your mairie) and require owners of homes situated less than 200 metres from woodland to clear an area of 50 metres around the property. 

This can mean pruning trees and shrubs, cutting grass and clearing dead leaves in order to slow the spread of wildfires. 

Reader more: France’s obligatory anti-wildfire garden clearing rules

Team up with neighbours

If you are away from the property, you can hire a company to do the work – however, you will not be able to check the quality, although sometimes neighbours will hire a firm together to clear a whole area.

Ask the mairie to organise clearance

The Code Forestier also provides the possibility for a commune to do the work or hire a professional upon a homeowner’s request, and bill them later. 

This rarely happens in practice, however, as the town hall is not required to accept the request; it is seen as the owner’s responsibility. 

By doing nothing, though, you risk a €130 fine.

Inspectors do not treat second homes differently

Christophe Chantepy, forest fire expert at the Office National des Forêts (ONF), said: “We often inspect second homes and treat them the same as any other dwelling.”

If the area is still not cleared after a fine, the mayor can issue a formal notice that it must be done within a certain period, and might include a late penalty of €100 per day.

“The mayor may wait for a person to visit to see them directly and issue the notice,” Mr Chantepy said. “A notice which does not reach its recipient does not work.”  

To be prepared, Mr Chantepy advises doing difficult work such as cutting trees during autumn or winter.

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