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

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

More than 1,000 firefighters fight a ‘monster’ forest fire in southwestern France that has scorched forests and forced 10,000 people to flee their homes.

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

“It’s a bogeyman, it’s a monster,” Gregory Allione of the French fire brigade FNSPF told RTL radio.

Firefighters have so far struggled to contain the fire due to high winds and high temperatures, fearing that the direction of the blaze could change dramatically in the blink of an eye.

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

‘European solidarity at work!’ President Emmanuel Macron tweeted when sixty-five German firefighters from Bonn arrived on the scene, with additional support from Poland and Romania expected soon.

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

More than 1,000 French firefighters are on hand to fight the massive forest fire that has engulfed the Gironde region of southwestern France (Image: REUTERS)
More than 60,000 hectares (230 square miles) have gone up in flames in France so far this year, six times the full-year average for 2006-2021 (Credits: EPA)
361 additional firefighters from across Europe have been called in to help fight the blaze, using trucks, drones and planes (Image: REUTERS)

Valentine Dupy took pictures of her house with her phone before she was evacuated from Belin-Beliet, in the heart of the Gironde “just in case something happens”.

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

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

But the fire reached the suburbs, leaving destroyed homes and charred tractors.

Before the evacuation, some local residents had to save themselves on roofs as flames quickly approached their homes, reports say.

‘We got lucky. Our homes have been saved. But you see the disaster everywhere. Some houses could not be saved,” resident Gaetan said, pointing to houses burned to the ground.

Since then, more than 10,000 people have been evacuated from the town of Belin-Béliet, turning the entire area into a ghost town (Photo: Getty Images)
A view of a house and car destroyed by fire in Belin-Beliet, as wildfires continue to spread rapidly across the region (Credits: REUTERS)

French authorities said temperatures in the Gironde would hit 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) on Thursday and remain high all weekend, prompting firefighters to warn of an “explosive cocktail” of hot, dry weather and tinderbox conditions that could can help the flames.

Matthieu Jomain, a spokesman for the Gironde fire brigade said: ‘We are still in the phase of (trying) to limit the fire, direct it where we want it, where there is less vegetation, where our vehicles can best position themselves. … can eventually repair, master and extinguish it.’

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

“The area is totally disfigured. We are devastated, we are exhausted,” he told Radio Classique. “(This fire) is the last straw.”

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