[Update July 14 at 16:30 - 4,000 people have now been evacuated from the village of Cazaux. Gard, Vaucluse, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and Pyrénées-Orientales have now also been placed under an orange heatwave alert.]
The two wildfires which began in Gironde in south-west France on Tuesday afternoon (July 12) have now burnt almost 4,000 hectares of woodland.
A further 60 people were evacuated overnight from the area in addition to the 6,500 residents and campers who were moved out early yesterday.
One of the fires, covering 2,100 hectares around Landiras, to the south of Bordeaux, is this morning (July 14) said to be stabilised – although not yet under control, according to Gironde’s prefecture.
However, the wind is expected to pick up this afternoon, creating favourable conditions for the flames to spread.
“The objective this morning is to continue to contain the fire’s progress,” Vincent Ferrier, subprefect of Langon, which covers the area affected by the blaze, told France Bleu. “The worry is that the flames will pick up again this afternoon, with the predicted 40C temperatures.”
The other blaze has already burnt 1,750 hectares in La Teste-de-Buch near the popular tourist attraction of the Dune du Pilat, Europe’s largest sand dune, and today “the situation is still uncertain because of difficulties accessing [the fire].”
Around 500 people were evacuated from hamlets near the Landiras fire on Tuesday night, and over 6,000 from campsites near La Teste-de-Buch.
Read more: Thousands evacuated as wildfires rage in southwestern France
Last night, a further 60 or so people were evacuated from the village of Cazaux, near to La Teste-de-Buch blaze, as a precautionary measure.
The spread of the flames has slowed in this area this morning, and the subprefect has said that: “The flames are not threatening any houses”.
1,000 firefighters mobilised
There are currently around 1,000 firefighters – from Gironde and neighbouring departments – working to tackle the flames, and six Canadair and Dash planes carrying out water drops since 08:30 this morning.
Three Canadair, Dash and Beech planes which were due to be flying over the Champs-Élysées during the Fête nationale parade today have been redeployed in Gironde instead.
Read more: France’s July 14 military parade: theme and schedule to watch on TV
The president of the Fédération nationale des sapeurs-pompiers de France has called on prefectures to cancel their Fête nationale fireworks displays to avoid potential wildfires, and several local authorities have already done so.
Read more: French communes cancel July 14 firework displays due to wildfire risk
It is likely that the fires will continue burning for a few days yet, as they are spreading across very dry pine forests whose trees catch fire by their trunks, soon falling to the ground and allowing the flames to leap onwards.
The fire at La Teste-de-Buch is believed to have begun after a lorry travelling on the 214 road experienced an “accident or breakdown” which caused the vehicle to “catch fire”, the local prefect has said. The cause of the Landiras blaze is not yet known.
While fire and rescue crews work to tackle the two fires, several roads are closed. These are the RD 115 and 125 between Guillos and Landiras, as well as the 220 between Cabanac and Giillos and the 218 between la Dune du Pilar and Biscarrosse.
Of the people evacuated from their campsites, many have decided to go home, and there are only 1,500 left in the exhibition centre offered as a shelter.
Gironde remains under an orange weather alert for high temperatures and forest fires today. Six other departments – Lot-et-Garonne, Tarn-et-Garonne, Haute-Garonne, Tarn, Ardèche and Drôme – are also under orange canicule warnings, and 27 others are on yellow alerts.
Read more: French heatwave: what temperatures are expected for this weekend?
You can find out more about the heatwave situation on the Météo France website.
If you encounter difficulties as a result of the heat, you can call the Canicule info service on 0800 06 66 66 for free from any French landline between 09:00 and 19:00. In the case of an emergency, call 15.
A visit from the interior minister
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin paid a visit to Gironde yesterday afternoon (July 13) to offer his support to those affected.
“We have already had 15,000 hectares burnt since the beginning of the year, while there had been less than 1,000 hectares by the same time last year,” he said during a press conference.
The “fire season began very early [this year], surely because of climate change and the drought” which is affecting much of the country.
Read more: Drought map update: 19 French departments have crisis-level alerts
Much of south-west France on heightened heatwave alert
France prepares for 10-day heatwave, wildfire risk increases