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Wildfire in France forces thousands to evacuate

August 10, 2022

A fire in southwestern France that was thought to be under control has flared up again. Officials have blamed dry weather conditions and investigators are looking into suspected arson.

 This photo provided by the fire brigade of the Gironde region shows flames consume trees at a forest fire in Saint Magne, south of Bordeaux
Photos showed flames raging through pine forests, sending clouds of dark gray smoke soaring into the skyImage: picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Firefighters in the Gironde region of southwestern France on Wednesday were battling a wildfire that destroyed homes and forced evacuations.

Gironde authorities said at least 6,000 residents were evacuated and more were likely to be forced out of their homes as the fire razed more than 6,000 hectares (15,000 acres) of land.

The raging blaze was spreading toward the A63 motorway, a major artery linking the southwestern city of Bordeaux to Spain, forcing the road's closure between Bordeaux and Bayonne.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said more than 1,000 firefighters, nine aircraft and two helicopters were mobilized. 

The region, known for its pine forests, was hit last month by major wildfires which destroyed more than 20,000 hectares of forest and forced the evacuation of nearly 40,000 people.

An aerial view taken on July 29 shows burnt forest after wildfires in Landiras
Gironde was hit by major wildfires in JulyImage: Thibaud Moritz/AFP

France has struggled with successive wildfires amid heatwaves this summer, with the country reporting its worst drought ever recorded

Perfect conditions for a wildfire

Officials had thought the wildfire in Gironde was under control — although not fully extinguished — after burning nearly 14,000 hectares. It flared up again on Tuesday. 

The current conditions are also likely to further fuel the fire, an official said. 

"The weather is very unfavorable because of the heat, the dry air, the record drought and the fact that there is a lot of peat in the ground," Martin Guespereau, representative of the Gironde district, told journalists.

"The fire didn't go out in July, it went underground," he added. 

Suspected arson

Darmanin said arson is being investigated as a potential cause of the massive fire. He said that eight fires broke out between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. (0600 and 0700 GMT) at intervals of a few hundred meters and called it "extremely unusual."

Last month, prosecutors said three forest fires in recent weeks were sparked by arson.

fb/wmr (AFP, AP, Reuters)