Almost 1,000 hectares of land in southern France have been destroyed in a wildfire with more than 300 firefighters employed to bring it under control.
The blaze occurred between Salses-le-Château and Opoul-Périllos in the Pyrénées-Orientales last night (Tuesday June 28), with 320 firefighters sent to the scene to quell the blaze and evacuate residents of Salses.
All residents have now returned home and “there is no longer any threat to housing, goods, or people”, said Étienne Stoskopf, the Pyrénées-Orientales prefect.
At least eight fires were recorded as having started in the area from Tuesday midday and the blaze is still continuing, although less dangerous.
Mr Stoskopf said: “[The fire] is less dangerous now than it was Tuesday night [but] remains active. We must continue to fight it, on its southern side, which separates Rivesaltes and Opoul.”
Local residents are still struggling with “powercuts [and] difficulties with drinking water supply, but the situation is not worrying”.
A crisis cell has been set up to resolve ongoing issues.
The departmental roads of RD5 and RD9 towards Opoul are still closed. Residents are requested to not travel to the area “for their safety” and to ensure the “efficiency” of the firefighter interventions.
#incendie #pointdesituation— Préfet des Pyrénées-Orientales (@Prefet66) June 28, 2022
Le feu d'Opoul-Périllos et Salses le Château reste actif mais ne menace plus les habitations. Les sapeurs pompiers du @SDIS66 poursuivent les opérations d'extinction. Evitez la zone afin de ne pas gêner leur action. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/TeFrzV2bmS
Mr Stoskopf said that “it is too early to say” if the fire was started by a criminal act, but that eight fires starting in the area appeared to be unusual “given that we were not in an extremely risky situation”.
Many areas of France have been at high risk of wildfires in recent months, and a fire colonel who helped put out an 80-hectare fire in Aude in early June warned of a “difficult summer ahead”.
A blaze in Gard (Occitanie) saw more than 2,000 campers evacuated as the fire destroyed more than 200 hectares in mid-June. At the start of the month, several forests were closed in Var due to drought conditions and strong wind, both of which increase the risk of fire.