France wildfires: Firefighters battle ‘monster’ blaze as heatwave and drought go on

·2 min read
Austria, Germany, Greece, Poland and Romania are providing aid to help battle the fire - Thibaud Moritz/AFP via Getty Images
Austria, Germany, Greece, Poland and Romania are providing aid to help battle the fire - Thibaud Moritz/AFP via Getty Images

A record heatwave and drought have left firefighters battling an “ogre” wildfire in south-west France, which officials say has already destroyed nearly 17,300 acres near Bordeaux.

More than 10,000 people have been evacuated from the Gironde region since Tuesday, with dozens of homes destroyed.

“It’s an ogre, it’s a monster,” Gregory Allione, a firefighters’ spokesman, told RTL Radio on Thursday.

The huge blaze comes as more than 100 communes in France face severe water shortages, with the government having to send in water trucks and place restrictions on water usage.

Strong winds and high temperatures have left officials worried that it will continue to spread.

“The weather is very unfavorable because of the heat, the dry air, the record drought, and the fact that there is a lot of peat in the ground,” said Martin Guespereau, a representative for the Gironde region.

“It’s the first time we’ve seen a fire like this,” Jerome Jean, a French firefighter, told BFM TV.

Fire, Gironde region, France - Philippe Lopez/AFP via Getty Images
Fire, Gironde region, France - Philippe Lopez/AFP via Getty Images
Fire, Gironde region, France - Caroline Blumberg/Shutterstock
Fire, Gironde region, France - Caroline Blumberg/Shutterstock

On Thursday, Emmanuel Macron, the French president, said Austria, Germany, Greece, Poland and Romania were providing aid to help battle the fire.

Poland said it was sending 146 firefighters, while Germany was sending 64 firefighters and 24 vehicles.

Mr Macron tweeted:  “Our partners are coming to the aid of France in the face of the fires. Thanks to them. European solidarity at work!” The European Commission on Thursday said it was also sending four planes from Greece and Sweden.

Local officials, meanwhile, urged Elisabeth Borne, the prime minister, who was visiting the Gironde region alongside Gerald Darmanin, the interior minister, to buy firefighting aircraft.

Firefighters on the ground “are strong, but they’re not going to last through this alone,” warned Ghislane Charles, the mayor of the village of Saint-Magne, in which 17 homes have been destroyed.

More than 10,000 firefighters and other personnel are mobilised across the Gironde region  to try and control the flames. “These firefighters are our heroes,” said Mr Macron.

Mr Darmanin said arson was being investigated as the suspected cause of the fire. He said that eight fires broke out early Tuesday morning a few hundred metres from one another, which he described as “extremely unusual.”

It comes as prosecutors also said that three forest fires that erupted last month were caused by arson.