900 firefighters fight megafire in southern France

On Friday, more than 900 firefighters, supported by aviation, were deployed to put out a massive fire in France. southern The Gard area, which burned 600 hectares (1,500 acres) overnight.

“This fire is far from over, there are fronts in hard-to-reach areas that we have not captured and are moving freely,” said Eric Agrinier, a senior fire officer.

“It’s going to be a feat of endurance.”

Working the night after the blaze started late Thursday night, firefighters backfired to protect communities.

“We are burning some parts (forests), so when the fire spreads, it reaches the already burned area and slows down, which makes it easier to stop its progress,” said Jacques Page, standing in front of the line of burning flames. pitch black forest.

Described by emergency services as a “mega-fire”, the fire started near the village of Bordezak and prompted forced evacuations from nearby Bessezh and other communities on Thursday evening.

The local prefect’s office said about 100 people were to be accommodated in holiday homes and restaurants in the area, which is about 90 kilometers (55 miles) north of Montpellier and the Mediterranean coast.

“I find rooms for people and all the rest homes do the same,” said Regina Marchand, a restaurant manager in nearby Aujac, on Thursday evening.

“We cooked pasta for them, people quickly left without taking anything with them, but they are in a good mood, the atmosphere is good.”

By Friday, the people’s houses were no longer in danger, only the garage and a small hut were damaged.

The Gard area fire department said on Friday morning that 13 firefighters were slightly injured.

In addition to personnel on the ground, two aircraft were dropping water from early in the morning.

On Thursday, the air deployment stretched to 12 firefighting aircraft and two helicopters.

Roads were closed to traffic entering the Bessezh area, and hundreds of firefighters remained at the scene, some of them from neighboring regions.

– Drought increases risk –

Like large swathes of the country, the southeast of France has been hit by a drought this year, increasing the risk of wildfires.

During a heat wave last month, about 600 hectares were burned by a fire that started as a result of the shelling of an army artillery range near the Mediterranean port city of Marseille.

Firefighters in the Bouches-du-Rhone area were called on Thursday in connection with 35 outbreaks, many of which were close to populated areas.

Four houses were destroyed near the southern city of Arles, and 250 firefighters were called in to put out a forest fire in Saint-Mitre-lès-Rampard.

Although several more fires started in the south of France on Thursday, most of them were extinguished before dark.

The fire department said thousands of acres of densely forested land are at risk as gusts of wind up to 80 km/h (50 mph) fan the flames among dead trees.

According to Lieutenant Colonel Agrinier, the wind is the “worst enemy” of firefighters.