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Heatwave alert extends to 16 French departments, wildfires continue

Two fires are still raging in the south-west, having already burnt over 7,500 hectares of land. Temperatures of around 40C are expected this weekend making firefighters’ efforts more difficult

16 French departments are now under an orange heatwave alert as wildfires continue in Gironde Pic: Météo France / Trevor Bexon / Shutterstock

National weather service Météo France has extended its orange heatwave warning to five new departments, bringing the total to 16. 

The new departments included in the alert are: Gers, Landes, Lot, Pyrénées-Atlantiques and Hautes-Pyrénées. 

They join: Gironde, Tarn, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Ardèche, Drôme, Gard, Haute-Garonne, Lot-et-Garonne, Pyrénées-Orientales, Tarn-et-Garonne and Vaucluse.

A further 27 departments in western and south-east France are also under a yellow heatwave warning.

Météo France says the heat is expected to peak on Monday (July 18), with “extreme temperatures along the Atlantic coast”. 

Highs of 40-42C are predicted for all of western France, from Pyrénées-Orientales to Morbihan. 

Forest fires continue in Gard

The extended heatwave alert comes as around 1,000 firefighters and several planes continue working to tackle two wildfires in Gironde, one around La Teste-de-Buch near the Dune du Pilat, and the other around Landiras, 40km to the south of Bordeaux. 

Neither blaze is under control, and nearly 7,650 hectares of forest have been burnt, covering an area 1.5 times the size of Bordeaux.

Around La Teste-de-Buch, at least seven buildings have been destroyed, including three houses and two restaurants, where only a few walls and “blackened chairs” remain, a France Bleu journalist reports.

This fire has reached the Lac de Cazaux and is advancing “in the direction of homes all along the road around the lake”. 

The Landiras fire is now the worst that Gironde has known in the past 20 years. It is also the second worst fire to have occurred in France in the same period, after the blaze which killed two people in Var in 2021.

In total, 11,000 people have been evacuated from the two fires, with 10,000 of those being moved away from villages and campsites near La Teste-de-Buch.

The hot weather, wind and dry vegetation is making it difficult for firefighters to tackle the flames.

The prefecture has decided to temporarily ban driving and parking between 14:00 and 22:00 on forested and rural roads and tracks. 

“We really must take extreme precautions,” the president of the local Conseil départemental Jean-Luc Gleyze told Franceinfo. “We are in a heatwave; the forest is particularly fragile and vulnerable.” 

Related articles 

French wildfires continue: 7,000 hectares burnt, buildings damaged

Drought map update: 19 French departments have crisis-level alerts

More people evacuated as south-west France wildfires rage on

France prepares for 10-day heatwave, wildfire risk increases

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