Fierce fires that broke out overnight from Monday to Tuesday have destroyed large areas of brush and woodland west of Saint-Tropez, forcing the evacuation of thousands of holidaymakers.

Up to 5,000 hectares were burnt and people have been told to stay away because of the danger of fires breaking out again as stumps continue to burn below the surface.

The fires were fanned by strong winds and as dawn broke in Saint-Tropez the sky to the west of the town was bright red, according to eye-witnesses.

Campsites and holiday villages including La Môle and Grimaud were evacuated overnight on the orders of the Var regional authorities. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin flew to the scene to inspect the damage and further threats. No injuries were reported.

France has so far been spared the worst of the fire outbreaks that have hit Greece and Italy particularly hard. The main blaze had started close to a motorway service station north of Toulon.

PHOTO: Reuters