The French Government has tweeted a warning reminding yachts to keep clear of firefighting planes following deadly forest fires along the French Riviera.
Large water-bombing planes, named Canadairs, have been collecting water in the Gulf of St. Tropez before taking off in the direction of the hills where fires were raging through vineyards and forestland.
The French Sécurité Civile posted a video on Twitter of a near-miss between a Canadair and a smaller pleasure craft as a stark reminder that vessels cruising in the area must keep clear of Canadair operations and avoid anchoring in designated “scooping zones” where the aircraft collect water.
A statement by the Préfecture Maritime de la Méditerranée said: “In the event of fire and deployment of Canadair-type ‘water bombers’ planes, it is prohibited and dangerous to approach these aircraft in operations during the ‘scooping phases.’” According to the coastal authorities, these zones are activated by the simple low altitude overflight of the water by the aircraft.
From the spotting overflight, any yachts, swimmers, or divers must move away from the area as quickly as possible more than 500 meters perpendicular to the path of the plane and stay out of the vicinity for up to one hour after the last flyby.
A number of yachts in the Gulf of St. Tropez fled the area during the fires. “We were at anchor in front of Club 55 in Pampelonne during the wildfire,” said Andrea Franci, captain of M/Y Florentia. “When I understood that the situation was getting worse I picked up my guests and moved towards Cannes. The air was unbreathable and the yacht was completely covered with ashes.”
He added: “I heard on Channel 16 during my navigation that a Sécurité Civile message was broadcasted by the authorities warning all the vessels about Canadair operations in that area.”
A combination of hot weather and strong winds caused the fire with more than 1,1000 firefighters tackling the blaze and 10,000 forced to evacuate their homes across the region.
The fires, which have now been extinguished, ravaged approximately 18,000 acres of forest in the Var region about 40 kilometers inland from the yachting hotspot of St. Tropez.