Firefighters in France fight ‘explosive cocktail’ of wind and flame

LA TEST DE BUCHE, France. On Tuesday, more than 2,000 firefighters from across France battled raging wildfires that burned nearly 80 square miles of dry forest in the Gironde region in the southwest of the country and forced the evacuation of more than 37,000 people. last week.

In the small town of La Teste-de-Buch, not far from the popular vacation spot of the Bay of Arcachon, a temporary fire headquarters was buzzing. Fire trucks raced back and forth, helicopters and water-dropping planes flew overhead, and officers scanned colored maps of the flames.

Firefighters’ efforts were hampered by strong gusts of wind, dry conditions and scorched trees, which scattered burning embers through the air, further spreading the flames. Mathieu Jaumin, spokesman for the regional fire department, called it an “explosive cocktail”.

By evening, authorities were cautiously optimistic that firefighters would be able to control the blaze. Fabien Buccio, a senior local official, told reporters that the fires were “much less” progressing than in previous days as cooler temperatures and higher humidity helped firefighters contain them.

Huge clouds of grey-red smoke billowing from the fires reached Bordeaux on Tuesday, about 30 miles to the northeast. There was a smell of burning in the air, and the health authorities recommended that residents – especially vulnerable people, such as those with respiratory illnesses – stay inside and limit intense physical activity.

Another forest fire raged further inland, near the town of Landiras. This was reported by the local authorities statement on Tuesday that “the situation remains very unfavorable” in the area, where firefighters fought the blaze all night and many roads were closed.

At the firefighting base in La Teste-de-Buch, trucks cut vegetation to clear a piece of land and create a natural barrier to the fire. In another area, firefighters covered an area about a mile long with white sand.

Vincent Ferrier, a local official in Langone, a district of the Gironde, told reporters on Tuesday afternoon that the flames had stabilized in the north but could spread south due to changing winds.

“We’re trying to pre-empt what’s coming next,” he said.

Only a few buildings were damaged or destroyed as a result of the fire, and no deaths have yet been recorded. Authorities are evacuating thousands of vacationers and residents who were not in immediate danger but could potentially be in the path of the fire.

Ronan Leustic, a local official in Arcachon, told reporters on Tuesday that “this is a strategy we adopted from the start” to avoid last-minute panic attacks.

Nearly half of the displaced people were evacuated on Monday as flames and thick smoke drifted toward Arcachon Bay, a popular tourist destination known for its oysters and sandy beaches that draws hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers every summer.

The fire destroyed five campsites around the nearby dune du Pilat, the highest sand dune in Europe. Authorities have closed access to Dune du Pilate and traffic jams have blocked the entrance to the Arcachon Bay after sections of the highway leading to Bordeaux were closed to facilitate evacuations, disrupting the plans of thousands of people as France’s summer holiday season is in full swing.

Patrick Dave, mayor of La Teste-de-Buch, warned on Tuesday that the fire was “an enemy that never sleeps, that moves, that gives you no respite.”

“In some places, the fire is localized, but it has not been localized yet,” he said. Daveth This was reported by the news channel BFMTV..

Zoo Bassin d’Arcachon In La Teste-de-Buch, the evacuation of animals began, as the fire approached the object dangerously close.

Zoo staff, workers and veterinarians from across the country worked “tirelessly to bring out as many animals as possible, until the last moment, while the nearby forest was on fire,” the French government said in a statement. statement.

About 10 of the zoo’s 850 animals died due to heat and stress, but 363 of them – all those that could be easily transported – were safely evacuated. Most of them were delivered in specially designed boxes and trucks to a nearby zoo in the suburbs of Bordeaux.

Some 380 animals were kept at the zoo “for safety reasons,” the French Association of Zoological Parks said in a statement.

Prosecutors in Bordeaux, who are investigating two major bushfires, said this week that both fires started on July 12, but in very different ways.

Frédéric Porteri, Bordeaux’s chief prosecutor, said in a statement that the fire at La Teste de Bouches started after a camping employee’s pickup truck broke down and burst into flames, sparking a blaze that quickly spiraled out of control.

But investigators suspect that the second Landiras fire was set on purpose. RS. In her statement, Porteri said the witness saw the car drive away from the scene of a burgeoning fire in the area.

In this case, the police detained a 39-year-old man. The man, who lives in the Gironde department, was previously under suspicion of arson in the summer of 2012, but no charges have been filed due to lack of evidence, prosecutors in Bordeaux said on Tuesday.

Constant Meeu reported from La Teste-de-Buch, and Aurélien Breeden from Paris.