Gironde fire update: 10,000 people evacuated, blaze still spreading

One resident said she had had to cram ‘40 years of life’ into the boot of her car in 30 minutes as she hurried to escape

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[Article updated August 11 at 15:00 with words from Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne and news of EU planes and firefighters being sent to help the firefighting effort.]

The number of people evacuated from the reignited forest fire in the south of Gironde rose to 10,000 yesterday (August 10) as the area burned increased to 6,800 hectares.

Read more: Homes destroyed as south-west France wildfire reignites overnight

The fire also destroyed another house yesterday, bringing the total number to 17. No residents have been reported as injured.

Evacuations have taken place in the villages of Béliet, Belin-Béliet, Saint-Magne and Hostens.

Fire was first reported around Landiras, to the south of Bordeaux, on July 12, and over 13,000 hectares were destroyed. Firefighters managed to contain the blaze around 10 days later, and were working to extinguish it completely.

However, on Tuesday night (August 9), two new fires in the area helped the original blaze to start up again.

Météo France has released an image showing that the plume of smoke rising from the fire is visible from its satellite, and is drifting both towards the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.

During a press conference yesterday, Gironde delegate prefect Martin Guespereau said that the fire was still spreading, adding: “It has generated its own wind, its own movement, and it has decided to head northwards”.

“The fire has spread on all sides and with the rise in temperatures [linked to the current heatwave], we have a blaze which is exploding in some places,” the departmental director of Gironde’s fire service said.

An information service has been set up along with a victim support service.

Four firefighting planes from the EU fleet have been sent from Greece and Sweden to France today to help tackle the fire, and President Emmanuel Macron took to Twitter to thank them and other member states for their assistance. Later today, firefighters will be arriving from Germany, and tomorrow they will be joined by reinforcements from Poland.

Read more: MAP: How to see where wildfires are in France in real time

Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne is carrying out a visit in Gironde today (August 11) with Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin.

“Our firefighters are facing particularly violent fires on several fronts,” she said yesterday, adding that there has been a “complete mobilisation of the government and its services, alongside local officials, volunteers and residents”.

After seeing the landscape touched by the fire, she said that the government would work on a replanting project for the woodlands of Gironde, and that further measures aimed at tackling climate change were being discussed in government.

"We have never seen so many air teams mobilised to fight fires, and we will continue to add to them," she also said. "In comparison to July, we have gone from two helicopters to nine. By the end of the week, we'll have 11."

Mr Darmanin has called on businesses to release any employees who are also volunteer firefighters so that they can come to relieve those who have been working to tackle the flames for weeks.

The president of the Confédération des petites et moyennes entreprises (CPME), Cécile Despons, responded: “Businesses are, in the main, ready to collaborate. We are all affected, both economically and on a human level, and so we understand this appeal.”

However, she added that: “We are controlled by the law; things must therefore line up to be in working order.”

‘Black clouds’

Elionor, a 19-year-old forced to leave her home in Belin-Béliet, told Franceinfo yesterday: “This morning, we got up to see black clouds above us.

“It’s shaken us a bit; everything is developing very very quickly.

“When we had the first fires in July, I told myself: ‘imagine if it reached here!’ and that is what is happening today. It’s really overwhelming.”

Another resident, Evelyne, said: “There are cars everywhere, Canadair planes above our heads, sirens blaring.”

She added that she had only had half an hour to pack her things before she left her home, with “40 years of life in my car boot.

“I took essentials: some clothes, the iPad, and definitely a little album with photos of my children at the age of two or three.”

Overnight, there were 1,000 firefighters at the scene to tackle the flames.

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