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Wildfires in south of France: 10,000 hectares burned and counting

Fires have broken out across the country this weekend, with two blazes continuing to spread in Gironde. More than 14,000 people have been evacuated

A forest fire in a pine forest

“We are saving the ground pine tree by pine tree” said the deputy prefect of Arcachon (Image for illustration only) Pic: Christian Roberts-Olsen / Shutterstock

Wildfires in Gironde, south of France, have destroyed more than 10,000 hectares of vegetation and required the evacuation of 14,000 residents and holidaymakers. The fires are still not contained.

More than 1,200 firefighters attended the area yesterday (Saturday, July 16). Two fires began in the area on Tuesday, July 12, and have continued to burn.

No victims have been reported.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin tweeted an update on July 16, and said that he was keeping informed of the situation.

The first was identified in the Landiras area, a forested area around 40km south of Bordeaux. The situation was still considered to be “critical” last night, with more than 7,000 hectares burned, the prefecture said in a statement.

It continued: “Changing winds have caused the fire to progress over different fronts.” This required the evacuation of areas including Tuzan, Villagrain hamlet, the commune of Cabanac-et-Villagrain, and of the village and nautical base. 

Residents and holidaymakers have been evacuated. Seven emergency accommodation centres have been set up, plus an emergency medical and psychological help centre, to support those affected.

Another fire in Teste-de-Buch is also still burning, but it appears to be slowing down.

The deputy prefect of Arcachon, Ronan Léaustic, said: “This evening, we are at 3,200 hectares burned compared to 3,150 this morning. The area is stable but the fire is absolutely not yet contained.

“We have seen restarts everywhere across the area, because of the fire. We are saving the ground pine tree by pine tree.”

Emergency services enabled residents to return to their homes safely, to “pick up and feed their animals”, but this effort was interrupted by “a restart of a fire that had appeared stable” due to wind.

In total, 1,200 firefighters were called across the entire area on Saturday, and since Tuesday, four personnel have been “lightly injured”, one truck overturned, and another burned, the latest report said.

Two Dash and three Canadair planes have been passing overhead continuously in a bid to assist.

On Thursday, July 14, the alert levels for forest fires rose in Gironde, and the neighbouring departments of Landes, to red (4 and out 5).

Fires were also raging in Bouches-du-Rhône, where 400 firefighters were on-site in the Montagnette massif, south of Avignon, attending to a fire that has now spread over 1,500 hectares. 

In Loire-Atlantique, 60 firefighters tackled three vegetation fires, which burned a total of 18 hectares. And in Brittany, near Rennes, a fire destroyed 20 to 25 hectares of vegetation on Friday, July 15.

The weather is still hot and increasing the risk of forest fires. A total of 38 departments have been placed on orange heatwave alert (“canicule”) by Météo France until the end of today.

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