This photograph taken on July 18, 2022 shows people swim on the Moulleau's beach as the smoke rising from the forest fire in La Teste-de-Buch, seen from Arcachon, in front of the Pilat dune. - In scorching heat, with more than 40°C, some 8,000 people had to leave - in a "preventive manner" according to the prefecture - the Miquelots and Pyla-sur-Mer, districts of the municipality of La Teste-de-Buch, a town of 28,000 inhabitants where 4,300 hectares of forest went up in smoke. (Photo by THIBAUD MORITZ / AFP)

In the middle of the main holiday season, a heat wave is sweeping across Europe, bringing with it drought and forest fires. Large forest fires are already raging in some holiday countries due to record temperatures, drought and strong winds. However, many Germans booked their holidays on the Atlantic and the Mediterranean months ago.

What is the current situation? Should the flight still be started despite the forest fire in the holiday country? And what cancellation regulations do you have to observe if there is a fire in your holiday destination? We clarify the most important questions and answers.

Several countries in southern Europe are affected by forest fires this summer, including France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. In general, however, the fires are localized, so far known holiday regions are hardly threatened.

The interactive map of the “Copernicus program” of the European Union provides an overview of major sources of fire in Europe. For a detailed view of the current fires, check “MODIS” and “VIIRS” in the selection mask on the left under “Active Fires”.

The temperature measurement data are obtained from various satellites. However, the website points out that the fires cannot always be pinpointed with pinpoint accuracy.

In France, the devastating forest fires are primarily raging on the Atlantic coast. Emergency services are currently fighting two large fires near Bordeaux. Almost 1,700 firefighters from all over France are on duty there.

According to the authorities, more than 19,000 hectares of land south of the metropolis were destroyed within a week. Around 16,000 people had to be brought to safety in the surrounding areas on Monday.

West of Bordeaux and not far from the highest sand dune in Europe, the Dune du Pilat, five campsites burned down “up to 90 percent”, according to the authorities. 6,000 vacationers had already been evacuated there in the past week.

Nevertheless, there is a slight all-clear: The French weather service “Météo-France” lifted the highest heat warning level for 15 departments on the Atlantic coast on Tuesday. However, the second highest warning level still applies to 73 of the 101 departments in France. In the coming days, the heat is expected to move to the east of the country. Then it should get hot there in some places up to 40 degrees.

Several fires are currently raging on the Iberian Peninsula, some near popular travel destinations. In Spain, the regions of Castile and León and Galicia in the west and north-west of the country were most recently affected.

The situation in Zamora near the border with Portugal and in Ávila north-west of Madrid is classified as particularly critical. In these two provinces, around 10,000 people have had to be evacuated from around 50 towns since Sunday. In Zamora alone, 30,000 hectares of forest burned down and countless houses were destroyed by the flames.

Meanwhile, three larger forest fires are still active in Portugal, which are being fought by almost 800 emergency services (as of Tuesday). According to the nature conservation authority “ICNF”, this year’s fires in Portugal have already destroyed almost 60,000 hectares – more than twice as many as in 2021.

Fires are currently prevalent in the north-east of the Greek capital Athens. Around 500 firefighters, 120 fire engines, three planes and four helicopters were deployed in the early hours of Wednesday to prevent the fires from spreading to the towns of Penteli, Pallini, Anthousa and Gerakas.

The flames are already raging in inhabited areas and have destroyed numerous houses. A number of residential buildings, a children’s hospital and the national observatory in Athens had to be evacuated as a precaution. In the metropolis, parts of the ring road that runs around the city have been closed to traffic, reports the German Press Agency (dpa).

The fire brigade was last deployed nationwide for 117 forest fires. Fires have previously devastated large areas of agricultural land on Crete.

Unlike Western Europe, Greece has so far been spared the extreme heat. However, strong winds and increasing drought favor the fires.

The Italian fire brigade has been fighting a forest fire in Tuscany for several days. Around 500 residents from the area of ​​the municipality of Massarosa near the city of Lucca have already been brought to safety. More than 100 firefighters are on duty, with four fire-fighting aircraft and a helicopter providing air support.

For weeks, emergency services in Italy have been fighting blazing fires again and again. Similar to Greece, strong winds and the drought that has persisted for weeks have increased the risk of forest fires.

The forest fire warning level has been increased on the popular holiday island of Sardinia. Level three, the highest warning level, already applies in Sicily.

In principle, package holidaymakers have the right to cancel their trip without incurring any fees if the following conditions are met:

As soon as the Federal Foreign Office advises against unnecessary trips to a country, package holidaymakers have the same rights as during the Corona pandemic, explains Karimi. “In exceptional circumstances, holidaymakers can withdraw free of charge”. These include forest fires as well as political dangers and outbreaks of pandemics.

If devastating forest fires only break out during the trip on a package holiday, there are two options, according to the Bremen Consumer Advice Center:

Even if there is already a travel warning from the Federal Foreign Office, individual travelers should not rely on the fact that free cancellation is generally possible. The possibility of free cancellation depends heavily on the country in which the provider, such as an airline, is based and what laws apply there, according to lawyer Karimi.