France battles ‘monster’ wildfire as heatwaves scorch Europe

HOUSTENS, France, Aug 11 (Reuters) – A “monstrous” forest fire raged for a third day in southwestern France on Thursday, ravaging forests and forcing 10,000 people to evacuate their homes.

With scorching temperatures not easing ahead of the weekend, firefighters, backed by water-bombing planes, battled on multiple fronts, saying the massive blaze could change direction at any moment.

“It’s a monster, it’s a monster,” Gregory Allion from the French firefighting organization FNSPF told RTL radio.

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Forest fires have raged across Europe this summer as a succession of heat waves scorched the continent and focused attention on the risks of climate change to industries and livelihoods. Read on

Valentine Dupy took photos of her house with her phone before evacuating her from Belin-Belliet, in the heart of the Gironde region, “in case something happens”.

“It was like an apocalypse. Smoke everywhere … and planes throwing orange powder on the fire.”

Firefighters said they managed to save her village, turned into a ghost town, after police told residents to evacuate as the flames approached.

But the fire reached the outskirts and burnt the destroyed houses and tractors.

“We are lucky. Our houses were spared. But you see disaster everywhere. Some houses could not be saved,” said resident Gaytan, pointing to burnt houses on the ground.

‘We are heartened’

361 firefighters from across Europe, as well as trucks and waterbombing aircraft, were expected to back up 1,100 French firefighters on the ground.

“We’re still in the (effort) phase of putting out the fire, directing it where we want, where there’s less vegetation, where our vehicles can position themselves the best … so we can finally fix it, get it under control and put it out. . that,” said Matthew Jomen, spokesman for the Gironde Fire Department.

More than 60,000 hectares (230 square miles) have burned in France so far this year, six times the full-year average for 2006-2021, data from the European Forest Fire Information System show.

French authorities said temperatures in the Gironde region would reach 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) on Thursday and remain higher until Saturday.

Firefighters warned of an “explosive cocktail” of weather conditions, with wind and tinder-box conditions helping to extinguish the flames.

A major forest fire in the Gironde in July destroyed more than 20,000 hectares of forest and forced nearly 40,000 people to temporarily evacuate their homes.

Jean-Louis Dartielh, the mayor of Hostons, described the past weeks as a disaster.

“The area is completely devastated. We are sad, we are tired,” he told Radio Classic. “(This fire) is the final straw.”

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Reporting by Manuel Ausloos and Stephen Mahé in Hostons, Laili Foroudy and Michel Rose in Paris, Cristina Thikjer in Madrid and Caterina Demoni in Lisbon; Writing by Richard Lough, Michelle Rose, Ingrid Melander; Editing by Jason Neely, Andrew Havens and Alex Richardson

Our Standards: Principles of Thomson Reuters Trust.

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