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Arson suspected as huge French wildfire flares up again

#Arson #suspected #huge #French #wildfire #flares

A wildfire that officials believed was under control in south-west France has flared up again amid a record drought and extreme heat, possibly the result of arson, officials said on Wednesday.

More than 6,000 hectares (15,000 acres) of dry forest have burned in just 24 hours in the so-called Landiras Fire, the largest of several that have scorched the region over the past month.

It had been brought under control – but not fully extinguished – after burning down nearly 14,000 hectares before flaring up on Tuesday, forcing the evacuation of about 6,000 people.

No one was injured, but 16 homes were destroyed or damaged near the village of Belin-Beliet and officials said six fire engines were burned.

“The risks are very high” that the fire will continue to spread due to the parched conditions, said Gironde department prefect Martin Guespereau.

“The weather is very unfavorable because of the heat, dry air, record drought and the fact that there is a lot of peat in the ground… the fire didn’t go out in July, it went down,” he told journalists.

Home Secretary Gerald Darmanin said more than 1,000 firefighters are currently battling the blaze, adding that investigators suspect arson.

“There were eight fires that broke out between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. (0600 and 0700 GMT) that erupted a few hundred meters apart, which is extremely unusual,” he said in Mostuejouls, north of the Mediterranean city of Montpellier, where im Another fire raged in the Grands Causses Natural Park.

He also told reporters that within 24 hours, Sweden and Italy would send fire-fighting planes to France to help.

– ‘The sky roared’ –

“It’s a major fire…much more intense and fast-moving” than at the height of the Landiras fire last month, Marc Vermeulen of the regional fire department told journalists.

“I opened the door last night and there was (a) red wall in front of us, the sky was roaring like the ocean,” said Eliane, a 43-year-old at a shelter for evacuees in Belin-Beliet.

For Christian Fostichenko, 61, and his partner Monique, who were waiting at a martial arts dojo in nearby Salles, it was their second evacuation this summer from their home in Saint-Magne.

“This time we were really scared – the flames were less than 100 meters (328 feet) from the house,” he said.

The fire spread towards the A63 motorway, a main artery connecting Bordeaux to Spain, with thick smoke forcing the road between Bordeaux and Bayonne to be closed.

France has been hit by a record drought this summer, which has led to nationwide restrictions on water use, as well as a series of heat waves that many experts are warning are being caused by climate change.

Wildfires have also ignited in the arid hills of the south-east and even in the normally lush areas of Brittany along the English Channel.

On Wednesday, officials in western France said a wildfire near Angers and Le Mans has burned 1,200 hectares since Monday while nearly 400 firefighters struggled to contain it.

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#Arson #suspected #huge #French #wildfire #flares

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