The French government is calling on companies to make volunteer firefighters available to fight fires in August as drought conditions and the fourth heat wave since June hit much of the country.
“We have reached a point of exhaustion for the firefighters,” French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin told reporters during a visit to the fire department of Aveyron in southern France on Wednesday.
There are more than 250,000 firefighters in France, and 79% of them are volunteers, according to the latest statistics from the French Firefighter Service. Currently 10,000 firefighters are mobilized in the fight against forest fires in France, according to Dermanin.
10,000 residents have been evacuated because of the Gironde fire that started on Tuesday, said Martin Guesperau, deputy commissioner for defense and security in Nouvelle-Aquitaine prefecture. He said that 6,000 hectares of forest had been destroyed earlier.
The main A63 highway between Bordeaux and Bayonne “will remain closed in both directions,” the Gironde said The prefecture said Wednesday. “The fire is very severe and has spread to the Landes department.”
The flames destroyed 16 homes but there were no injuries, according to a press release.
“We are entering a difficult day with very high risk. The weather is extremely unfavorable at the moment,” officials said.
French authorities added that they were also battling at least three other fires in the south of the country.
French Prime Minister Elisabeth Bourne will visit Gironde with Darmanin on Thursday, Bourne announced on social media.
Temperatures in this part of the country are expected to reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) on Thursday and Friday, according to a forecast published by the country’s weather service on Wednesday.
The affected area is almost the size of India and more than the three largest US states of Alaska, Texas and California.
And New satellite images from Copernicus, the EU’s climate monitoring agency, have revealed a near cloudless view of western Europe as it experiences another intense heatwave.
In the southern UK and the Netherlands, the mercury once again climbed above 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) while France and Spain faced temperatures in excess of 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).
According to Copernicus, “This new heat wave is associated with a strong high-pressure figure that causes cloudlessness over much of Western Europe.”
According to the National Weather Service, temperatures between August 9 and 14 could again exceed 44°C (111.2°F) in Spain, 40°C (104°F) in France, 35°C (95°F) in the south. C (86 Fahrenheit),” said Copernicus.
CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said: “Apart from a few cooler days in between, this heat wave is forecast to last for the next 10 days.”
High temperature, low rainfall
According to Liz Bentley, chief executive of the Royal Meteorological Society, Europe is experiencing extreme temperatures due to high pressure and strong sunshine.
Western Europe in particular “has been struggling since the beginning of June,” she told CNN on Wednesday.
“Then you combine that with the lack of rainfall – and parts of Europe have had below-average rainfall for 15 or 16 months now – a long period of dry weather and that has brought rivers and reservoirs down to very, very low levels.”
Bentley added: “Recent heat waves have exacerbated the problem because it evaporates any moisture from the ground, from rivers, from reservoirs. This has left large parts of Europe in drought conditions.”
These dry conditions and ever-increasing temperatures have led to wildfires, which Bentley says are “not uncommon” in Europe. But, she added, “the season started very early and has been more persistent and more widespread than we normally see.”
She added that the effects of extreme heat events and drought are already being seen, for example in agriculture and farming communities.
“What this means is that we’re going to see a sharp decline in crop production throughout the summer, and that’s going to have an impact on food prices — not just across Europe, but around the world. The problems that the Russian invasion is causing in Ukraine — that’s going to exacerbate the whole food price problem. “
Bentley said the latest forecast from the UK’s Center for Ecology and Hydrology said the situation was unlikely to change anytime soon. His analysis of the forecasts shows that temperatures are expected to remain above average over the next two months, with below-average rainfall compounding the problem.
CNN’s Judson Jones, Xiaofei Xu and Renee Bertini contributed to this report.