France commune

Thousands evacuated as smoldering French wildfire reignites | Forest fires

Around 10,000 people have been evacuated to save them from wildfires in the Gironde region of southwestern France after a massive blaze that destroyed more than 15,000 hectares (37,000 acres) of pine forest in July broke out again and tore the woods apart.

“The fire is raging and has now spread to the Landes department,” local authorities in the wine department said. The French government doubled the number of firefighters to 1,000 on Wednesday afternoon, supported by planes dropping water.

The fire that started in the Landiras region in July reignited late Tuesday amid fierce drought and high temperatures. It quickly burned 6,000 hectares of woods overnight and on Wednesday morning firefighters said the blaze continued to “grow rapidly”.

Martin Guespereau, head of the Gironde region, announced the closure of an important section of motorway between Bordeaux and Bayonne because the fire was heading towards him and the fumes were causing visibility problems.

“We are facing a very high risk day,” he said. Hot weather and record drought in the region contributed to this, he said. The July hell had never completely died out, but had continued to smolder in the boggy soil of the region.

Flames engulf trees near Hostens. Photo: Facebook/Reuters

High temperatures on Tuesday afternoon rekindled the blaze caused by hot winds, local authorities said.

About 3,800 people were evacuated from homes in the Belin-Béliet, Saint-Magne and Hostens sectors. Many described seeing towering plumes of black smoke approaching. Guespereau said it was very difficult for evacuated villagers who had already been forced from their homes when the fire raged a month ago.

No one was injured in the area that attracts tourists in summer but 16 houses were destroyed near the village of Belin-Béliet.

“Everyone in the village went up to their roofs to see what was happening. In 10 minutes, a little whirlwind of smoke became huge,” Camille Delay, 30, said after being evacuated from Hostens. As a wall of flames rapidly approached, Delay, her son and her husband fled on the orders of emergency services. The couple grabbed their two cats, chickens and home insurance documents before leaving, she said.

The Landiras fire that erupted in July was the largest of several this year in southwestern France, which has been hit by record drought and a series of heat waves.

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The Gironde was affected in July by two forest fires which destroyed more than 20,000 hectares of forest and led to the evacuation of nearly 40,000 people.

France is grappling with drought and heat waves that have sparked multiple wildfires in the past two months.

Other regions of France have experienced forest fires this week, notably in the southern regions of Lozère and Aveyron. In the Maine-et-Loire department in western France, more than 1,200 hectares were also burned.