A new major wildfire has broken out in the south of France, injuring nine firefighters and closing a motorway in the region – although the blaze is now under control.
More than 200 firefighters initially attended the scene in the commune of Aubais, south of Nîmes, in Gard (Occitanie) yesterday (July 31). More than 370 hectares of pine forest were destroyed before the fire was contained overnight.
Two homes were affected as were two warehouses. Other homes were at-risk but were saved. Everyone who was evacuated in the local area was able to return home on Sunday evening.
The blaze was contained “in the second part of the night, after a long fight”, said Commander William Borelly, head of communication for firefighters in Gard.
More than 670 firefighters and 129 fire engines attended in total, as well as five water bomber planes and a helicopter. Reinforcements from neighbouring departments came to help.
Firefighters and engines remained on the scene to “drown the perimeter of the fire”, said the commandant, to prevent the flames from restarting. This work will take several days, the commander said.
Nine firefighters were injured in the operation, the fire service départemental d'incendie et de secours (SDIS) said, including one severely.
Three of the injured initially went into shock, while the severely injured firefighter was “seriously burned on the hands and face” and was evacuated to hospital by helicopter, a statement said. His prognosis has not yet been determined.
The others suffered from heatstroke, and were able to rest before “returning to the fight”, the statement added.
The smoke from the flames also caused the closure of the A9 motorway in both directions until the end of the evening. Motorway authority Vinci Autoroutes said: “The fire has not affected the motorway, but a significant plume of smoke presented a risk to traffic.” It also put management measures on the A54.
The fire was first declared at around 15:00 near the departmental road 12, close to the 130-inhabitant commune of Mano. Wind gusts up to 60km/h and very dry ground contributed to the fire spreading 2.5-3km per hour.
Un incendie est en cours sur la commune de Mano— Préfet des Landes (@Prefecture40) July 31, 2022
➡️Le centre opérationnel départemental est activé
➡️Les sapeurs-pompiers et les renforts aériens sont mobilisés
➡️Environ une centaine d'hectares détruits
+ d'infos : https://t.co/Hp33EgO74L
It is not yet clear how the fire started but “gendarmerie investigations are underway”, said Commander Borelly.
Part of the Gard department is still on “extreme” alert for wildfires, while the departments of Gironde, Hérault and Ardèche have also seen hectares destroyed by flames in the past week.
In Gironde, two fires ravaged more than 20,000 hectares of land over 12 days last month.
Other fires started in the nearby department of Bouches-du-Rhône, around 20km from Marseille, including one that spread over 35 hectares and put 200 homes at risk before being contained.
It comes as several major blazes over the past few weeks are being investigated for suspected arson.