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Firefighters tame Marseille wildfire

'Imbecilic' legionnaires' training exercise blamed for blaze which threatened suburbs of city

FIREFIGHTERS fought through the night to control a wildfire that was raging towards the eastern suburbs of Marseille.

The fire, which started in the Carpiagne military camp, destroyed 1,100 hectares of scrubland and damaged four houses - but so far there have been no serious casualties.

Seven firefighters have been treated for smoke-inhalation or slight burns.

It is thought legionnaires caused the fire when they staged an exercise using tracer fire – which set the brush alight and was fanned by the strong winds.

Préfet Michel Sappin has strongly criticised the army for allowing the exercise to go ahead in the weather conditions, calling it “imbecilic”.

He called for an inquiry saying that last year the military caused the biggest fire of the summer after a similar incident at the Canjuers base.

More than 100 firefighters from Marseille and Bouches-du-Rhône were joined by 400 soldiers as they battled the fire which threatened the eastern Trois-Ponts suburb.

Hundreds of people have been evacuated from their homes and an old people's home and handicapped centre at La Panouse were moved to other centres.

Firefighters managed to halt the spread of the fire during the night when it was about 8km from the suburbs of La Barrasse and Vaufrèges. However, they expect winds reaching 80kph today and are ready for it to spread again.

More than 180 vehicles are being used in the operation including four Canadair water bomb aircraft and several helicopters.

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