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Thousands evacuated as wildfires rage in southwestern France

More than 6,500 people have been moved away from campsites and villages and several roads are closed

Two forest fires have led to the evacuation of more than 6,500 people in Gironde. Photo for illustration only Pic: FCG / Shutterstock

Over 6,500 people have been evacuated as two wildfires, which began yesterday afternoon (July 12) and have since destroyed 1,400 hectares of land, continue to rage in Gironde.

The fires, which are located near Landiras, 40km to the south of Bordeaux, and La Teste-de-Buch near the Dune du Pilat, the largest sand dune in Europe and a popular tourist spot on the Atlantic coast, are still active. 

Firefighters say that the Landiras blaze has been burning 100 hectares of pine forest per hour.

No local residents or holidaymakers have been hurt at this stage, although there have been reports of two firefighters being taken to the Centre Hospitalier de Bordeaux to be treated for smoke inhalation.

It is thought that the fire near La Teste-de-Buch started after an electric vehicle encountered issues on a wooded road. 

Several Canadair and Dash aircraft are currently carrying out water drops in an attempt to quell the fires, and a total of 800 firefighters are mobilised, with back-up crews from Haute-Garonne, Gers, Charente, Charente-Maritime and Lot coming to assist their Gironde colleagues.

The plume of smoke coming from the Landiras blaze is visible from the Bordeaux ring road. Firefighters have said that this fire is raging “over difficult terrain,” with a “swirling wind” complicating intervention operations.

The evacuated population includes 525 residents of five hamlets from around Guillos and Origne, on the edge of the Parc naturel régional des Landes de Gascogne, who are being sheltered in a community hall in Louchats and in La Brède. 

“I no longer have any residents in the commune,” said the mayor of Guillos, Mylène Doreau. “When I saw the fire approaching the houses and had to evacuate people who did not want to leave their homes, it was quite something. Everyone has cats, dogs, chickens, and wanted to save everything. 

“They [had to] prepare in such a rush.”

The blaze around La Teste-de-Buch has led to the evacuation of five campsites and over 6,000 campers and campervan owners, who have been taken to a nearby exhibition centre. 

“The wind shifted during the night. And even if the flames are very far from the campsites, the decision was made to evacuate them overnight and this operation was completed at around 05:00 this morning,” David Annotel of the Fédération nationale des pompiers de France told BFMTV. 

“This is an area which can easily get blocked off and with the temperature [today] it was preferable to evacuate in the early hours rather than in the day.”

Drivers should be aware that the departmental roads 115, 125 and 220 are closed around Guillos, Origne and Landiras, and the D128 is closed between the Dune du Pilat roundabout and Biscarosse beach.

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