Mandatory rules for clearing fire-fighting gardens in France

Residents of areas most vulnerable to wildfires are required to clear certain garden vegetation – a procedure known as clearing – especially as temperatures rise in summer.

We take a look at what’s involved, who has to do it, and what happens if you ignore the rules.

Read more: Forest fires: French law may require you to cut at-risk vegetation

What is brush clearing?

Clearing Where clearing translates to “pruning” or “reducing” and refers to the practice of pruning trees or clearing vegetation at ground level in order to prevent a forest fire from spreading from one point to another and threaten buildings.

It is mandatory in some areas and may involve cutting low branches, trimming grass, trimming hedges or shrubs and removing dead leaves.

When is brush clearing mandatory?

Clearing the requirements are described in the Forest Code. Rules on clearing are decided by local authorities and are therefore not uniformly applied nationwide.

Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Corsica, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Occitanie and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur impose obligations for the clearing of gardens at departmental level.

For example, in Ardèche (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes), clearing is compulsory “on the edge of all woods and forests”, which is also the case in the Drôme, except around “lower risk woods”, which are listed by the prefecture. In other departments of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, there may be areas subject to clearing obligations, but these will be decided at a more local level by the prefectures.

In general, people who live in departments where clearing The rules in place are to cut back their gardens if their property is within 200 yards of a forest or other wood.

It is also required around campgrounds and areas subject to a Natural Risk Prevention Plan (PPRN), by virtue of the legal clearance obligation (OLD).

Even if your home is not in an area classified as particularly at risk of fire, a prefectural decree may require you to carry out clearing within 50 meters of your property.

You can find out more about the rules in your area by typing your municipality in the search field for this government information page.

Your local prefecture’s website should also have instructions for affected residents, and your town hall should be able to help you if you’re unsure whether the rules apply to you.

In urban areas at risk, clearing is normally also compulsory for owners of properties within 200 meters of woodland.

How to proceed to clear the vegetation?

If your home is located less than 200 meters from a wooded area and you have to cut the vegetation, the operation must generally concern the entire land within a radius of 50 meters around the property.

Along the paths or private paths leading to your home, 10 meters must be cleared on either side of plants or dead leaves that could ignite.

If part of the area to be cleaned belongs to a neighbour, you should ask them – through a registered letter with acknowledgment of receipt – to obtain permission to go to their land to cut their vegetation.

If he refuses, the operation is his responsibility and you must inform your town hall.

Residents are advised to use a brush cutter to cut vegetation and maintain a five meter radius of tree-free land around their property.

For trees more than five meters from the house, consider pruning low branches to a height of about two meters, ensuring that the tops are not close enough together that a fire can jump between them .

You should also prune shrubs under trees and keep the grass short.

The waste created by your pruning and trimming should be taken to a public landfill, compacted into compost, or cut into firewood. It is forbidden to burn it outside.

What happens if you don’t follow the rules?

If you are required to cut the vegetation around your home and you ignore the rules, your town hall can serve you with a formal notice within which you must complete the work and can impose a fine of up to €100 for each day of non-performance. then.

The town hall can also impose an administrative fine of up to €30 per m² not cleared.

You also risk a criminal fine of up to €750, or €1,500 for a housing estate.

Additionally, if failure to clear vegetation allowed a forest fire to spread and damage other people’s property, you could be sentenced to one year in prison and a €15,000 fine.

If your property is damaged, your insurer may impose an additional deductible of up to €5,000.

Can I get help with the cost?

It is possible to hire a professional to carry out clearing for you.

You can find help by typing ‘clearing‘ and the name of your department or municipality in a search engine.

If you have paid someone else to carry out the work, you can benefit from a tax credit of up to 50% of the cost of the clearing, up to a limit of €3,000 per year and per household. Therefore, you could recover up to €1,500.

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