Firefighters from across Europe raced to France on Thursday to tackle a “monster” wildfire that raged for a third day near the wine-growing region of Bordeaux, with no respite in blistering temperatures expected before the weekend.
More than 1,000 firemen, aided by water-bombing planes, attempted to put out the fire in the southwestern Gironde area, which has displaced thousands French residents and charred 6,800 hectares of woodland.
“It’s an ogre, it’s a monster,” Gregory Allione of the FNSPF, the French firefighters’ union, told RTL radio.
French President Emmanuel Macron said European countries were rushing to France’s rescue. Two Greek tanker planes were arriving alongside two Swedish airtractors, 64 German firefighters, 146 Poles, and more from Austria and Romania, according to his office.
This summer, wildfires have erupted across Europe as successive heatwaves sear the continent, bringing record temperatures and refocusing attention on the risks of climate change to business and livelihoods.
Overnight, the darkening skies above Gironde’s burning woodlands blazed orange, forcing locals to face another anxious night as the fire advanced.
Firefighters said they were able to save the community of Belin-Beliet, which had been turned into a ghost town when police ordered inhabitants to escape as the flames neared.
Allisson Fayol and her father stayed in nearby Hostens, their bags ready in case they needed to go quickly.
“There is still a lot of smoke but for now it’s not coming this way,” Fayol said after seeing many of her neighbors abandon their houses overnight.
The region was being visited by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne.
Heatwaves, floods, and eroding glaciers have heightened global concerns about climate change and the rising frequency and severity of extreme weather.
According to Josef Aschbacher, the head of the European Space Agency, successive heatwaves, diminishing rivers, and rising land temperatures as observed from space leave no doubt about the impact of climate change on agriculture and other industries.
“It’s quite horrible. We have seen extremes that have never been seen before “According to Aschbacher.
In recent weeks, the European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-3 satellite series recorded “extreme” land surface temperatures of more than 45 degrees Celsius in the United Kingdom, 50 degrees Celsius in France, and 60 degrees Celsius in Spain.
According to data from the European Forest Fire Information System, more than 57,200 hectares have been burned in France this year, about six times the full-year average from 2006 to 2021.
Temperatures in the Gironde area of France are expected to hit 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) on Thursday and remain high until Saturday, according to French authorities.
Firefighters warned of a “explosive cocktail” of weather conditions, with the wind and tinder-box conditions assisting in fanning the fires.
In July, large flames ravaged the Gironde, destroying more than 20,000 hectares of woodland and displacing about 40,000 people.
Jean-Louis Dartiailh, mayor of Hostens, described the last several weeks as a disaster.
“The area is totally disfigured. We’re heartbroken, we’re exhausted,” he told Radio Classique. “(This fire) is the final straw.”