The continuing drought has increased the risk of forest and heath fires. Currently fire-risk level Code Amber (one step up from Code Yellow) is in force in all 5 Flemish provinces. This means that amongst other things, smoking and lighting fires is banned in all publicly accessible woodlands and nature reserves. Ms Demir has drafted a decree that will make the ban permanent.
She told journalists that "This will apply throughout the year and will make enforcement easier”. Camp fires and fires for cooking will be permitted in designated areas and areas where camping is allowed, providing that the fire-risk level is not at Code Yellow or above.
“Firstly, during the past few years we have seen what the impact of drought can be. The risk of fire and actual fires have had a negative impact and given climate change this won’t be any different in the future. Secondly, cigarette ends are strewn everywhere in our areas of natural beauty with all the consequences that this brings. There is already so little nature in Flanders, so we need to do all we can to protect what there is as best we can”, Ms Demir said.
With next week’s predicted heatwave in mind Ms Demir also reiterated the Nature and Woodlands Agency’s call to be very careful in areas of woodland and natural beauty. It is particularly important not to leave litter lying around.