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Brittany, Dordogne, Isère: evacuations as new wildfires hit France

Arson is suspected in some instances with one mayor saying: ‘We seem to be witnessing a challenge over who can create the biggest fire; it’s worrying’

Several departments, such as the Dordogne, remain on alert for a high risk of forest fires Pic: The Connexion

[Article updated August 8 at 14:40 with further information about the Voreppe fire.]

Several hundred hectares of land have been destroyed over the weekend in Brittany, Dordogne and Isère by wildfires, leading to hundreds of people being evacuated.

The blazes are now said to be under control but the dry weather means that there is a possibility of resurgences. Several departments, such as the Dordogne, remain on alert for a high risk of forest fires.

Yesterday afternoon (August 7) there were 300 firefighters and 80 vehicles mobilised in Erdeven (Morbihan), where around 30 different fires burnt 25 hectares. 

Around 300 people from 30 houses and a chateau with gîtes and a campsite had to be evacuated. In the end, no one was hurt and no buildings were damaged.

The fires are now under control but there is a possibility of resurgences due to the dry weather. 

In Locoal-Mendon (Morbihan), 10-metre-high flames threatened one home, whose owner said that a nearby tree was completely burnt down. This fire has also been brought under control. 

In all, Morbihan saw around 30 fires begin over the weekend.

In Finistère, the Monts d’Arrée, which had already been affected by fires in July, was the scene of another blaze burning 250 hectares of vegetation. 

Another fire in Brennilis – now also under control – destroyed 15 hectares of land, as 40 firefighters were deployed to tackle it, while in Brasparts 225 hectares were burnt.

Finistère firefighters were joined by reinforcements from Ille-et-Vilaine, Côtes d’Armor, Calvados, Mayenne and Orne, as well as farmers who came to help drench the undergrowth around the edges of the fires. 

Wildfires are normally a rare occurrence in Brittany, but the month of July alone saw 1,700 hectares burnt around the Monts d’Arrée. 

Fires started deliberately in Côtes d’Armor 

On Saturday night (August 6), more than 8,000m² of vegetation was burnt by fires in Les Rosaires, Plérin and at the Pointe de Pordic (Côtes d’Armor).

Around 40 firefighters had to be called out to tackle the flames, which the authorities believe were started deliberately. 

Criminal activity is often suggested when several fires begin at a similar time and over a small area of land.

Plérin’s mayor Ronan Kerdraon said: “The pyromaniacs [responsible] had already struck last week. This time, [the fires] got close to houses.

“We seem to be witnessing a challenge over who can create the biggest fire; it’s worrying.” 

The fires were brought under control on Sunday morning, and an investigation into their origin was opened.

Dordogne blazes contained 

Two other fires which began in Dordogne yesterday afternoon have been contained, according to the departmental prefecture. 

Around 110 hectares of the Forêt de la Double and land around La Roche-Chalais have been destroyed. 

Approximately 230 firefighters – including reinforcements from neighbouring departments – were deployed to help put the fires out, as well as two Canadair, one Dash plane and two helicopters. 

No one was hurt, although one home had to be evacuated. 

The department of Dordogne is classed as being at high risk from wildfires, and the weekend’s fires were the worst the area has seen so far this year. 

This morning, 80 firefighters were still mobilised at the scene.

Another fire in Isère 

On Friday (August 5), another fire began in Voreppe (Isère), to the north of Grenoble, because of a lightning strike. 

Some 75 hectares of land were destroyed, but the wind eventually dropped and the flames stopped spreading.

Firefighters could not easily access the craggy terrain, but four Canadair planes carried out water and sand drops to prevent the fire from reaching nearby houses. 

Read more: French wildfires: Airbus tests way to adapt plane into water bomber

Around 130 people were evacuated from the area and sheltered in a community hall in Voreppe.

This morning, the flames have picked up again, and a further five hectares have been burnt. There are 270 firefighters at the scene working to quell the flames, and a further 70 people have been evacuated.

The fire is around 20km away from Grenoble, but is visible from certain areas around the city. It is also producing a thick plume of smoke. 

Authorities are urging local people not to call the emergency services if they smell smoke - unless they can also see a fire - because it is most likely coming from the forest blaze. Members of the public are also urged to stay away from the scene of the fire so as not to put themselves in danger. 

Since January 1, forest fires have destroyed 47,000 hectares of land in France.  

Related articles 

Deer will not be hunted near wildfire stricken La Teste-de-Buch 

Nine firefighters injured tackling new wildfire in south of France

Explainer: France’s obligatory anti-wildfire garden clearing rules

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