France: More than 1,000 firefighters battle ‘monster’ wildfire

More than 10,000 people have had to flee their homes (Picture: EPA/Reuters)

More than 1,000 firefighters are battling a ‘monster’ wildfire in south-west France which has scorched forests and forced 10,000 people to flee their homes.

The raging inferno has been blazing for three days just outside of Bordeaux, already destroying 7,400 hectares of woodland and showing no signs of slowing down.

‘It’s an ogre, it’s a monster,’ Gregory Allione from the French firefighters body FNSPF told RTL radio.

Firefighters have so far struggled to contain the fire due to strong winds and high temperatures, fearful the direction of the blaze could change drastically at a moment’s notice.

But French authorities have called in the cavalry and received support from across Europe to help fight the blaze, with 361 firefighters, as well as trucks and water-bombing helicopters en route to assist the 1,100 French firefighters already on the ground.

‘European solidarity at work!’ President Emmanuel Macron tweeted as sixty-five German firefighters from Bonn arrived at the scene, with additional support from Poland and Romania expected to join them shortly.

Wildfires have broken out across Europe this summer as successive heatwaves have baked the continent on an unprecedented scale.

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Firefighters work to extinguish a wildfire near Hostens, as wildfires continue to spread in the Gironde region of southwestern France, in this handout photograph released on August 12, 2022. Courtesy SDIS 33/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. MANDATORY CREDIT

Over 1,000 French firefighters are on hand to battle the enormous wildfire which has engulfed the Gironde region in southwest France (Picture: REUTERS)
More than 60,000 hectares (230 square miles) have gone up in flames so far in France this year, six times the full-year average for 2006-2021 (Credits: EPA)
361 additional firefighters from around Europe have been called upon to help tackle the blaze, bringing with them trucks, drones and aircraft (Picture: REUTERS)

Valentine Dupy took photos of her house with her phone before being evacuated from Belin-Beliet, at the heart of the Gironde region “just in case something happens”.

‘It was like an apocalypse. Smoke everywhere … and planes throwing orange powder onto the fire.’

Firefighters said they had managed to save her village, transformed into a ghost town after police told residents to evacuate as the flames approached.

But the blaze reached the outskirts, leaving wrecked houses and charred tractors in its wake.

Before the evacuation, some of the local residents had to save themselves on rooftops as the flames rapidly approached their houses, reports say.

‘We’ve been lucky. Our houses were saved. But you see the catastrophe all over there. Some houses could not be saved,’ said resident Gaetan, pointing to houses burnt to the ground.

Over 10,000 people have since been evacuated from the town of Belin-Béliet, leaving the entire area a ghost town (Picture: Getty Images)
A view of a house and a car destroyed by fire in Belin-Beliet, as wildfires continue to spread rapidly throughout the region (Credits: REUTERS)

French authorities said temperatures in the Gironde region would reach 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) on Thursday and stay high across the weekend, leading firefighters to warn of an ‘explosive cocktail’ of hot, dry weather and tinder-box conditions which could help fan the flames.

Matthieu Jomain, a spokesperson for the Gironde firefighters said: ‘We are still in the phase of (trying to) confine the fire, direct it where we want it, where there is less vegetation, where our vehicles can best position themselves … so we can eventually fix it, control it and extinguish it.’

Hostens mayor Jean-Louis Dartiailh described the past few weeks as a disaster.

‘The area is totally disfigured. We’re heartbroken, we’re exhausted,’ he told Radio Classique. ‘(This fire) is the final straw.’

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