Forest Fires in Europe: Thousands Evacuate as French Firefighters Battle Two Gigantic Wildfires

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PC: France 24

Source: NY Times 19 July 2022. French firefighters on Monday were battling two gigantic wildfires that have torn through nearly 60 square miles of dry pine forest in southwestern France over the past week and forced over 30,000 people to evacuate.

Roughly 1,700 firefighters from around France have been deployed across the Gironde region, a coastal area around Bordeaux, to try to contain the raging flames. About a dozen firefighters have been lightly injured.

“We are facing an exceptional situation,” Marc Vermeulen, a fire chief in Gironde, told reporters on Monday.

He said the fires had become increasingly difficult to contain over the past few days as temperatures soared and erratic gusts of wind scattered embers onto a water-starved forest of resinous trees.

PC: France 24

“The fact that every afternoon the fire explodes and takes back all the ground that we gained overnight or in the morning, that’s grueling,” Mr. Vermeulen said. But, he added, “we are going to hold.”

Firefighters working to control a forest fire in Louchats, in southwestern France, on Sunday.
Firefighters working to control a forest fire in Louchats, in southwestern France, on Sunday.Credit…Thibaud Moritz/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images.

Dark plumes of smoke filled the sky as water-bombing planes buzzed overhead on Monday, flying back and forth to dip into the ocean and fill their tanks with water to fight the blazes. The fires closed some roads; others were clogged by snaking lines of cars leaving the area.

In France the fires have not caused any deaths, and have only resulted in damage to buildings authorities say.

However, temperature-related deaths have been recorded across Europe as summer heat waves have struck multiple countries across the continent with Spain, Portugal and Greece being the worst hit.

Fires in the South of France have burned more than 22,000 acres in the past week.