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French firefighters on alert after blaze breaks out in Gironde forest

Firefighters battle a blaze that destroyed 250 hectares of pine forest near Le Tuzan in southwestern France, 27 July 2020.
Firefighters battle a blaze that destroyed 250 hectares of pine forest near Le Tuzan in southwestern France, 27 July 2020. AFP - PHILIPPE LOPEZ

Firefighters have extinguished a blaze that destroyed 250 hectares of pine forest in the southwestern French department of Gironde. Authorities said they would continue to monitor the area to ensure fires remained under control.

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Emergency services deployed 180 firefighters and four planes that carried out 25 aerial water bombings on the largest fire to affect the southwestern department of Gironde this year.

The fire of unknown origin began around 2pm in the afternoon in the forest near Le Tuzan, a village of 300 inhabitants about 60 kilometres south of Bordeaux. 

No rescuers or residents were seriously injured and no property was threatened.

Fifty people were evacuated from several hamlets due to concerns over smoke in the afternoon. They were able to return home in the evening.

A fire truck was destroyed in the blaze, but the crew were able to escape. Rescue officials said four other firefighters were slightly injured due to exposure to extreme heat. 

A solar panel on a photovoltaic power station near Saint-Symphorien, a town of 1,800 people, was slightly damaged.

The blaze was extinguished by 10:30pm. 

Firefighters remain vigilant

A hundred firefighters continued to monitor the area on Tuesday to ensure the blaze did not return.

“The fire is not spreading, but it is still active, with several tree stumps that continue to burn,” lieutenant-colonel Eric Pitault of the departmental firefighting office told AFP agency. 

This year’s early summer has been particularly hot and dry in Gironde, and Monday saw exceptionally warm weather on much of French territory, with temperatures approaching 40 degrees Celsius in parts of the southwest. 

Weather forecasts predicted rain in the coming days before hot temperatures return in much of the southwest on Thursday and Friday. 

Gironde is the French administrative department with the most sources of forest fires, with more than 500 in 2019.

Despite the number of fires, the surface area affected tends to be minimal, with 420 hectares burned in last year.

(with AFP)

 

 

 

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