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‘Wolves’ battle wildfires in France as heatwaves scorch Europe

'Wolves' battle wildfires in France as heatwaves scorch Europe
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HOSTENS, France, Aug 11 (Reuters) – A “monstrous” wildfire in southwestern France ravaged forests for a third day on Thursday and forced 10,000 people from their homes.

As scorching temperatures persisted ahead of the weekend, firefighters, backed by water-bombing planes, fought on multiple fronts, saying the massive blaze could change direction at any moment.

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

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Wildfires have raged across Europe this summer as successive heat waves scorch the continent and draw attention to climate change on industries and livelihoods. read more

Valentine Dupy took photos of his home on his phone before being evacuated from Belin-Beliet, in the heart of the Gironde region, “just in case something happens”.

“It was like the apocalypse. There’s smoke everywhere … and planes are dropping orange dust on the fire.”

Firefighters said they were able to save his village, turning it into a ghost town after police told residents to evacuate as the flames approached.

But the flames reached the surroundings, leaving behind destroyed houses and burnt tractors.

“We were lucky. Our houses were saved. But you see the disaster everywhere. Some houses could not be saved,” resident Gaetan said, pointing to the burning houses.

‘HEART BREAK’

Support was pouring in from across Europe, with 361 firefighters expected to support the 1,100 French firefighters already on the ground, as well as trucks and water-bombing planes.

“We are still in the phase of containing the fire, directing it to where we want it, where there is less vegetation, where our vehicles can best position themselves … this,” said Matthieu Jomain, a spokesman for Gironde firefighters.

More than 60,000 hectares (230 square miles) have burned in France this year, more than six times the 2006-2021 average, according to the European Forest Fire Information System.

French authorities said temperatures in the Gironde region would reach 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) on Thursday and remain high until Saturday.

Firefighters warned of an “explosive cocktail” of weather conditions, with wind and fuel box conditions helping to extinguish the blaze.

The Gironde was hit by massive wildfires in July that destroyed more than 20,000 hectares of forest and forced nearly 40,000 people to temporarily flee their homes.

Hostess Mayor Jean-Louis Dartiailh described the past weeks as a disaster.

“The area is completely disfigured. We are heartbroken, exhausted,” he said. “(This fire) is the last straw.”

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Reporting by Manuel Ausloos and Stephane Mahe in Hostens, Laili Foroudi and Michel Rose in Paris, Christina Thykjaer in Madrid and Catarina Demony in Lisbon; Written by Richard Lough, Michel Rose, Ingrid Melander; Edited by Jason Neely, Andrew Heavens and Alex Richardson

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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