European firefighters join battle to stop French wildfires


Paris — Firefighters started arriving from across Europe France To help fight a number of wildfires, including a massive fire in pine forests in the country’s southwest on Friday.

A series of heat waves have triggered a severe drought across much of Europe to create the conditions for major wildfires. Pine forests were burning in Portugal for the seventh day on Friday, while Britain sweated another day of unusually hot weather.

A brigade of firefighters in the French Gironde region said the spread of forest fires was limited overnight due to little wind, but conditions under control remained “unfavourable” due to hot, dry weather.

Fires in the Gironde region and neighboring Landes have burned more than 74 square kilometers (29 sq mi) since Tuesday and caused the evacuation of at least 10,000 people.

More than 360 firefighters and 100 special land vehicles were dispatched from Germany, Romania, Poland and Austria. They are joining the more than 1,000 French firefighters already on site. Greece sent two special Canadian aircraft.

Sweden deployed two firefighting air tractor planes to help fight separate wildfires in the Brittany region of western France.

According to the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS), more than 600 square kilometers (232 sq mi) of forest land has been burned in France since the start of the year, more than any other year in the past decade.

In Portugal, more than 1,600 firefighters, 500 vehicles and 17 aircraft extinguished a weeks-old wildfire that had burned nearly 10 square kilometers (4 sq mi). Most of the burned land is the Serra da Estrela National Park, a protected nature area and UNESCO World Heritage Site that is sparsely populated.

High peaks and deep ravines make it difficult for firefighters to reach burn areas, but two out of three Canadair water-dumping aircraft in the country have been unavailable in recent days for mechanical reasons.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said only one waterdrop aircraft from Spain was available to assist as other Spanish aircraft were deployed to France under the EU’s mutual aid system.

“Unlike when wildfires used to be mostly in southern Europe, they are, unfortunately, now more widespread,” Costa said, describing the EU’s emergency cooperation mechanism as fully spread.

Britain’s Weather Service warned of extreme heat during the weekend for most of England and parts of Wales. Temperatures were forecast to rise above 30 °C (86 F) and as high as 36 °C (96.8 F) in some places, before more typical cooler weather and rain the following week.

The Met Office said many people were expected to experience health effects from the hot weather, especially individuals who are sensitive to heat.


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