Firefighters continued to fight this Saturday for several fires in Franceespecially in the southwest, waiting for storms and rains that will put an end to the heat wave that plagues much of Europe.
Further south, in Portugal, the fire in the Serra da Estrela natural park, which burned 17,000 hectares, was declared “controlled”.
In southwestern France, the 40-kilometre line of fire in the Gironde and Landes departments near Bordeaux “did not advance significantly overnight. Firefighters are working on its perimeter,” police said in a statement.
Authorities warned that it is premature to say that the fire is under control.
“We continue to monitor” because “although we cannot see large flames, the fire continues to burn the vegetation and the ground,” Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Mendousse, spokesman for the Gironde firefighters, told AFP.
The weather forecast service expects storms and rain at night. The impact on the fires is difficult to predict, since instead of quenching the flames they could fan them if they are accompanied by strong winds, Météo-France and firefighters said.
On Sunday, the storms will spread to most of France and put an end to the current heat wave in the country, a direct consequence according to scientists of the climate crisis. In this 2022, three times as many hectares have already burned in France than the annual average of the last ten years.
The fire near Bordeaux began in July, the driest month in France since 1961, and destroyed 14,000 hectares, as well as forcing thousands of people to temporarily flee their homes.
Authorities suspect that the latest revival of the fire near Bordeaux may have been arson. The flames burned some 7,400 hectares of pine forest there this week.
Ban on entry to forests in eastern France
The advances against the fire in the southwest of France allowed the reopening of the highway that connects Bordeaux and Spain, after a 20-kilometer stretch had been closed since Wednesday.
Given the magnitude of the fires, France has required the support of firefighters from European Union countries such as Germany, Poland, Austria and Romania, which have added more than 360 troops to the thousand French colleagues on the ground, as well as tanker planes.
“Here we are all volunteers. We are trained and we want to help,” said Tone Neuhalfel, a 36-year-old German firefighter.
Fires were also in the Jura region, in the east of the country, an area unaccustomed to high temperatures where the fire destroyed 600 hectares of forest.
Further east, in the Bas-Rhin department near the German border, French police were barring cars, cyclists, hunters and fishermen from entering most of the forests. Only residents will be able to access.
“It is an extreme measure in an exceptional situation,” said Pierre Grandadam, president of the association of forest communes in the Alsace region.
In Brittany (northwest), the mythical Brocéliande forest, a place of reference in the legend of King Arthur and the magician Merlin, lost 400 hectares due to fire, which this Saturday “was no longer advancing”, according to the prefecture.
In many areas of the country, the traditional fireworks on August 15, on the occasion of the Catholic feast of the Assumption of the Virgin, were prohibited to avoid risks.
Fire under control in Portugal
In Portugal, which is experiencing an unprecedented drought this year, the fire in the Serra da Estrela natural park, in the center of the country, was declared “controlled” the night of Friday to Saturday after burning 17,000 hectares, said civil protection.
Declared a week ago, the fire is “controlled,” Civil Protection Commander Miguel Cruz told TSF radio.
“The night was calm but we still have a lot of work to do” to prevent the lights from being revived, he explained, since the wind forecast for Saturday “was the main concern” of the firefighters.
This fire, which affected a natural park in the Serra da Estrela mountain chain recognized by UNESCO, is the most important that Portugal suffered this summer.
Since the start of the year, nearly 79,000 hectares have burned in the country, the worst toll since 2017, according to the Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests.