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540 people evacuated, homes burned in new south-west France wildfire

Police suspect the cause to be down to human involvement and an investigation has been opened into the origins of the blaze, which has burnt around 1,800 hectares of forest in Gironde

Around 500 people have been evacuated from Saumos and the surrounding hamlets because of a wildfire in the area Pic: Christian Roberts-Olsen / Shutterstock & Screenshot / Google Maps

A wildfire continues to burn today around the village of Saumos in Gironde, just west of Bordeaux (Nouvelle-Aquitaine).

It began yesterday afternoon (September 12) and has since burned through around 1,800 hectares of forest.

Some 540 people have been evacuated from Saumos and surrounding hamlets and four houses have been destroyed. People are being asked to avoid this area if possible. 

An investigation has been opened into the origins of the fire, with the Gironde gendarmes saying they suspect human actions to be behind it. 

The fire is "quite violent", local firefighters report. The weather conditions – heat, drought and low humidity – have contributed to its spread. 

Pic: Screenshot / Google maps

Read more: MAP: How to see where wildfires are in France in real time

A spokesperson for Gironde’s fire and rescue department said that the fire is similar to others that spread in France during July and August. 

“These types of fire start very quickly with a violence that we have rarely seen", they said. 

Around 700 firefighters from Gironde, Charente-Maritime and Lot-et-Garonne have been deployed to tackle the blaze. 

There were three points of origin of the fire, the mayor of Saumos, Didier Chautard, said. 

Fabrice Thibier, the deputy prefect of Lesparre Médoc, said that weather conditions could exacerbate the fire as strong winds have been propelling its spread while a summer of drought means the land is dry. .

“The action of the fire brigade has been decisive as it has succeeded in stopping the fire’s progression in some places. On other fronts, the fire is still very active,” he said.

“We had some rain last night but that is not enough to make up for two months of dryness this summer. It has, though, helped to stop the fire jumping in some places.”

Mr Thibier also said that he believes that the cause of the fire was down to human intervention but that it is “far too early to suggest criminal actions”.

“There are only two ways to start a fire naturally, either a volcanic eruption or lightning. And we had neither last night,” he said.

“So yes, it's probably of human origin. After that, it could have been an accident and for the moment nothing leads us to believe that it is criminal.”

Elsewhere, another fire is burning in the neighbouring department of Landes, around the village of Herm. About 45 hectares have been burnt and around 100 firefighters are on hand to fight the blaze. 

Gironde has already suffered greatly from wildfires this year, including a huge blaze around Hostens in the south of the department in which over 10,000 hectares of forest was burned. 

Read more: Gironde fire update: 10,000 people evacuated, blaze still spreading

The severity of the visit prompted French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne to visit the area in person. 

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