Wildfires Rage in France, Thousands Evacuated From Homes

Flames consume trees at a forest fire in Saint Magne, south of Bordeaux, southwestern France, Wednesday. ( SDIS 33 Service Audiovisuel via AP)

HOSTENS, France (Reuters) – A wildfire was advancing through the Gironde region of southwestern France on Wednesday, destroying homes and forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents, some of whom had clambered onto rooftops as the flames got closer.

More than 1,000 firefighters backed by water-bombing aircraft were fighting the fire that has razed more than 6,000 hectares and is still burning out of control.

France, like the rest of Europe, is struggling with successive heat waves and its worst drought on record. Dozens of wildfires are ablaze across the country, including at least four other major ones.

In the village of Hostens in the Gironde, police went door to door telling residents to leave as the fire advanced.

The local Gironde authority described the blaze as “rampant.”

Firefighters said more evacuations were likely. Even so, some Hostens residents were reluctant to abandon their homes.

The Gironde wildfire is one of many that have broken out across Europe this summer, triggered by heat waves that have baked the continent and brought record temperatures to some places.

In Portugal, nearly 1,200 firefighters backed by eight aircraft have battled a blaze in the mountainous Covilha area some 280 kilometers (174 miles) northeast of Lisbon that has burned more than 3,000 hectares of forest since Saturday.

Spain and Greece have also had to tackle multiple fires in the past few weeks.

The Gironde was hit by major wildfires in July which destroyed more than 20,000 hectares of forest and temporarily forced almost 40,000 people from their homes.

Authorities believe the latest inferno was a result of the previous fires still smoldering in the area’s peaty soil.

Fires were also raging in the southern departments of Lozere and Aveyron. In the Maine et Loire department in western France, more than 1,200 hectares have been scorched by another fire.

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