France’s south west was once again hit enormous wildfires on Wednesday, just a few weeks after over 14,000 hectares were scorched during July’s heatwaves.
The flames resumed on Tuesday, August 9th, and over 1,100 firefighters were fighting the flames as of Thursday, several of whom worked through Wednesday night to attempt to tame the fire. They were assisted by nine planes and two helicopters
equipped to drop water.
The latest reports on Thursday morning said that approximately 6,800 hectares had been burned, and several firefighters left injured.
Much of south west France was once again baking under a heatwave – the third period of extreme heat to hit France this summer.
The Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne, and Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, are expected to visit the affected region on Thursday, August 11th.
The Interior Minister announced Wednesday he suspected the resumption of the fires could be due to arson, as eight fires in close proximity to one another started around the same time.
“There were eight fires that erupted between 8:00 and 9:00 am that erupted at intervals of a few hundred metres, which is extremely unusual,” he said in Mostuejouls, north of the Mediterranean city of Montpellier, where another fire was raging in the Grands Causses natural park, reported AFP.
🔴 #Catastrophe en cours en #Gironde avec un #incendie hors de contrôle ce soir 🔥. De nombreuses évacuations ont lieu dans le secteur d’#Hostens. Une nuit très compliquée en perspective… 📹 Johanna SG pic.twitter.com/3caq4HUaZd
— Loïc Spadafora (@loicspadafora) August 9, 2022
As a result of the latest fires, local authorities have evacuated about 10,000 people as a precaution, telling BFMTV that their “first objective in this fight is to save human lives.” Additionally, the freeway from Bordeaux to Bayonne was closed on Wednesday because of visibility issues due to smoke.
Parts of the A63 motorway remain closed. In the direction of Bordeaux, traffic has been diverted for all to the A64 freeway at the A63/A64 junction. All vehicles must take the exit at Saint-Geours-de-Maremne. For “heavy goods vehicles,” the exit is compulsory at Exit 1 at Biriatou.
07h54: Sur #A63 suite aux incendies DIr° Bordeaux:
➡️ sortie obligatoire aux poids lourds à Biriatou
➡️ la circulation est déviée pour tous vers l'A64 à la hauteur de la bifurcation A63/A64
➡️ sortie obligatoire pour tous Saint Geours de Maremne n°9
— Autoroute A63 (@A63Trafic) August 11, 2022
No one has been injured in the coastal area that draws huge summer tourism crowds but 17 houses were destroyed near the village of Belin-Beliet.
— Margot Delpech (@margot_delpech) August 9, 2022
Amid heatwave and drought, the weather conditions were particularly unfavourable in the region, which is currently on ‘orange’ alert for high temperatures. Meteorologists were also expecting gusts wind of up to 35 km/h in the area. “The scorching temperatures (40C on Thursday), should continue until Saturday and combine with very dry air to create very precarious conditions with severe risk of fire outbreak,” local authorities said to SudOuest on Thursday.
The Landiras fire that ignited in July was the largest of several that have raged this year in southwest France, which has been buffeted by record drought and a series of heat waves.
Arsonists set some of the fires and officials initially suspected a criminal origin for the Landiras blaze. Police later released a suspect for lack of evidence.
Wednesday’s wildfire in Landiras was not the only blaze in France on Wednesday.
Another notable wildfire burned over 1,500 hectares in Maine-et-Loire – to the east of Nantes, between the cities of Angers and Le Mans. The regional firefighting coordination centre said it suspects arsonists are behind some of the “unlikely flare-ups” of the blaze.
Some 400 firefighters were on the scene, battling a fire that has “grown significantly” according to the local fire brigade on Wednesday morning. As of Thursday, local authorities reported this fire was under control (fixé).
The fires come as the majority of mainland France was on some level of drought alert, with many places only restricting water to only priority usage.