Firefighters from EU countries scrambled to France to tackle 'monster' wildfire

·3 min read
A view shows burning trees, as wildfires continue to spread in the Gironde region of southwestern France, August 11, 2022. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
Firefighters from across Europe are going to the aid of French fire crews as they struggle to contain a giant wildfire in the Gironde region. (REUTERS)

Firefighters from across Europe have been scrambled to France to help battle a 'monster' wildfire.

The blaze has been raging for days in southwestern France, destroying forests and homes and forcing 10,000 people to be evacuated.

Firefighters from Germany, Greece, Poland, Austria and Romania are being sent to help their French counterparts try to bring the fire - which reignited after being brought under control two weeks ago - back under control.

France has been hit by the same extreme temperatures as the UK, with unprecedented wildfires marring the summer.

Romanian firefighters arrive at a wildfire command post in Hostens to assist French firefighters, as wildfires continue to spread in the Gironde region of southwestern France, August 12, 2022. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
Romanian firefighters arrive at a wildfire command post in Hostens to help French firefighters. (REUTERS/Stephane Mahe)
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Emmanuel Macron hailed help from European countries on Twitter. (Twitter/Emmanuel Macron)

According to reports, 361 firefighters as well as trucks and waterbombing aircraft were due to back up 1,100 French firefighters battling the blaze.

Their assistance, which was announced by the European Commission, was hailed by French President Emmanuel Macron, who wrote on Twitter: "Thank you. European solidarity is at work!"

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So far this year, fires have already burned out more French land than in all of 2021, according to EU figures, with more than 230 square miles (60,000 hectares) having gone up in flames.

French firefighters described the enormity of the blaze, with Gregory Allione from the French firefighters body FNSPF telling RTL radio: "It's an ogre, it's a monster."

A firefighting plane drops flame retardant to extinguish a fire in Belin-Beliet, as wildfires continue to spread in the Gironde region of southwestern France, August 10, 2022. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
Firefighting planes are 'waterbombing' the area to help fight the blaze. (REUTERS/Stephane Mahe)
A firefighter reacts as he works to contain a fire in Saint-Magne, as wildfires continue to spread in the Gironde region of southwestern France, August 11, 2022. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
Firefighters battled similar wildfires in July. (REUTERS/Stephane Mahe)

French authorities have warned that the fire could change direction at any moment, saying that the "explosive cocktail" of weather conditions was exacerbating the situation.

The fires come a month after the same area of France was hit by wildfires in July, destroying more than 20,000 hectares of forest and forcing nearly 40,000 people from their homes.

Homeowners have had to flee the latest wildfires, with villages transformed into a ghost town as they were told to evacuate.

Firefighters embrace as they work to contain a fire in Saint-Magne, as wildfires continue to spread in the Gironde region of southwestern France, August 11, 2022. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Firefighters embrace after working to contain a fire in Saint-Magne. (REUTERS/Stephane Mahe)
A firefighting truck works to contain a fire in Saint-Magne, as wildfires continue to spread in the Gironde region of southwestern France, August 11, 2022. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
France has lost more land to fire already this year than it did in the whole of 2021, according to EU figures. (REUTERS/Stephane Mahe)

Valentine Dupy took photos of her house 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 work to contain a fire in Belin-Beliet, as wildfires continue to spread in the Gironde region of southwestern France, August 10, 2022. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
Firefighters described the blaze as a 'monster' after working to contain it for days. (REUTERS/Stephane Mahe)

Matthieu Jomain, a spokesperson for the Gironde firefighters, added: "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 added: "The area is totally disfigured. We're heartbroken, we're exhausted. (This fire) is the final straw."