Fire on French Riviera

Var forest fires, 3 September 2003
4 September 2003

A month after an earlier blaze was quelled, fire returned to the forested hills above the French Riviera this week. Since last Sunday many hundreds of hectares of woodland have been incinerated. The damage done is seen from space in this image acquired by ESA’s Proba satellite this week.

Taken on Wednesday 3 September, this true-colour picture centres on the town of Cogolin in the Var region of southeastern France. Just outside the image is San Tropez, on the coast due east of Cogolin. Clearly visible towards the upper left-hand corner of the image is the grey-dark burn scarring from the latest blaze.

Some 2,000 firefighters and water-carrying aircraft have been deployed to bring the fire under control since it first began in the thick oak and cork oak trees covering the Maures hills last Sunday. At the height of the fire, several campsites had to be evacuated and roads closed.

So far this week 4,500 hectares of trees and scrubland have been destroyed and on Monday three firemen were killed near the village of Grimaud, just to the right of the lowest charred area of woodland.

Flames in the forest near in La Garde-Freinet

Earlier in the week the blaze was being fanned by strong coastal winds but these have calmed in more recent days. This new Riviera fire is the latest in what has been a disastrous summer for French forests.

In July four tourists were killed by another forest fire in the same area. The French Interior Ministry estimates 54,000 hectares of woodland have been destroyed nationwide this year, the worst record for 15 years.

The CHRIS sensor aboard Proba acquired this 18-metre resolution image at 12.46 pm local time on 3 September 2003.

About Proba

Proba (Project for On Board Autonomy) is an ESA micro-satellite built by an industrial consortium led by Verhaert (B), launched in October 2001 and operated from ESA's Redu Ground Station (Belgium). Orbiting 600 km above the Earth’s surface, Proba was designed to be a one-year technology demonstration mission of the Agency but has since had its lifetime extended as an Earth Observation mission. It now routinely provides scientists with detailed environmental images thanks to CHRIS - a Compact High Resolution Imaging Spectrometer developed by UK-based Sira Electro-Optics Ltd - one of the main payloads on the 100 kg spacecraft.

Proba boasts an ‘intelligent’ payload, has the ability to observe the same spot on Earth from a number of different angles and can record images of an 18.6 km square area to a resolution of 18 m. More than 60 scientific teams across Europe are making use of Proba data. A follow-on mission, Proba-2, is due to be deployed by ESA around 2005.

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