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French fires come under control as heat drops

#French #fires #control #heat #drops

Firefighters battling double blazes in south-west France said Wednesday the blazes had been brought under control but not stopped entirely thanks to improved weather conditions.

“Our assessment is overall positive. The situation has improved overnight,” said spokesman for the local fire brigade, Arnaud Mendousse. Only 300 hectares more have been burned since Tuesday evening.

French President Emmanuel Macron is to visit the fire-stricken Gironde region, where a total of 20,600 hectares (50,900 acres) of forest has gone up in flames since last week and 37,000 people have been evacuated.

Temperatures have fallen from over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) on Tuesday to the mid-20s on Wednesday.

“We were really able to work on our defenses against the fire,” local government official Fabienne Buccio told reporters Tuesday night. “We managed to improve, advance and create significant firebreaks.”

“Cooler weather” helped, she said, although the area was not expecting significant rainfall that would help put out the blazes.

The pine forests along the Atlantic coast were bone dry after months of drought-like conditions that hit the country.

The largest fire is in a sparsely populated area south of Bordeaux near the village of Landiras, which police are treating as suspected arson.

A 39-year-old local man arrested on Monday was released overnight after investigators concluded “the evidence and testimony gathered has exonerated him”.

He was arrested but not charged over a forest fire in 2014, local prosecutors said in a statement.

A second fire has destroyed a popular seaside tourist area behind the Dune du Pilat, Europe’s largest sand dune, near Arcachon Bay.

It was probably caused by a van that caught fire last week.

Macron is expected to meet members of the emergency services, local officials and volunteers while touring the area alongside Home Secretary Gerald Darmanin on Wednesday.

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#French #fires #control #heat #drops

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