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France’s wildfires rage on as minister warns of more to come

The interior minister has said that fires could continue to flare up for a further six weeks. Reinforcements arrive today from around Europe

Aerial support has been called in to help tackle France’s wildfires Pic: evasion228 / Shutterstock

Several wildfires are still raging around France today (August 12) on what is set to be the hottest day of the latest summer heatwave. 

Temperatures could reach up to 37C in Hostens (Gironde), where the biggest active fire in the country is burning. 

There are around 1,100 firefighters fighting the blaze, with over 350 reinforcements arriving from other European countries, such as Poland, Germany, Greece, Romania and Austria. 

Poland is sending 146 firefighters, who will arrive this afternoon, while 64 firefighters and 24 vehicles arrived from Germany yesterday evening. 

Planes to tackle the flames are also arriving from Italy, Greece and Sweden. 

It is not the first time that France has called on its European neighbours to fight fires, with support drafted in last year to fight another fire in Gironde.  

France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, has said that more fires are expected in the coming days and weeks. 

“During the next three weeks, a month, a month and a half of summer in the south of France, there will certainly be more very large fires. It’s quite unbelievable,” he said. 

Around 7,400 hectares of forest have burned in the past 48 hours in Gironde, around Hostens. Over 14,000 hectares burned in the same area in July. 

Some 10,000 people have been evacuated from the area, as well as from the Landes, the neighbouring department. 

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

The blaze has destroyed 17 houses in the village of Belin-Béliet in Gironde. No resident injuries have been reported. 

Heatwave-level temperatures are expected to continue until at least tomorrow and, combined with dry air, create a very severe risk of more fires breaking out in the area, the Gironde préfecture has warned. 

Read more: Homes destroyed as south-west France wildfire reignites overnight

The Hostens wildfire is south of Bordeaux. The majority of the fires are in Gironde but it also stretches into the department of Landes. 

Credit: Google Maps

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

‘We are exhausted’

The mayor of Hostens, Jean-Louis Dartiailh, has said that firefighters and volunteers fighting the blaze are “exhausted”. 

He said that he asked the prime minister, Élisabeth Borne, who visited the area yesterday, to call in the army to assist in monitoring further outbreaks. Mr Dartiailh said that the prime minister told him he would have to see with the Défense des forêts contre les incendies. 

“We are exhausted because we are monitoring these fires 24 hours a day,” Mr Dartiailh told Franceinfo. 

He said he is worried about what happens after the fires are brought under control as the teams monitoring potential new outbreaks are made up of volunteers. 

“We have had a lot of volunteers up to now because the people are on holiday. But the task of monitoring is going to last several weeks, maybe months, and I’m worried we will not have the capacity for this.”

770km-high cloud of smoke seen from space

The Hostens fire has caused an enormous plume of smoke that reaches 770km into the sky and is visible from space, as well as neighbouring region Occitanie. 

The smoke cloud is spreading outwards towards the Atlantic Ocean, as well as towards the Mediterranean and the region of Occitanie. 

It is possible to see a light mist from Occitanie, caused by the smoke, especially in areas of Haute-Garonne. A light veil of mist has also been reported over the Toulouse sky. 

The Agence régionale de santé in the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine has recommended people close to the Hostens fire to wear FFP2 or FFP3 masks if outside for an extended period of time. 

No such recommendation has yet been made by the ARS in Occitanie. 

Other wildfires around France

Jura

Since Tuesday, two fires have been burning in Jura in the east of France. 

Around 660 hectares of forest have burned in the south of the department. The progression of one of the fires, around Vescles and Cernon, has slowed, while the other has been extinguished, the préfecture has stated. 

Brittany

A fire has been reported near Campénéac in Morbihan, close to the border with Ille-et-Vilaine. A first report from firefighters states that around 200 hectares of forest have been burned. The origin of the fire is not yet known. 

Aveyron

A fire that broke out at the start of the week in Aveyron, around Mostuéjouls, has now been brought under control, the department’s préfecture has announced. 

Over 750 hectares of vegetation were burned. No one was injured. 

In total, around 3,500 people were evacuated from the area this week, 3000 of which were asked to leave their homes in the early hours of Tuesday morning.  

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19 French departments on orange alert as heatwave approaches peak

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