France. Fire in Gironde. Polish firefighters on the way

A huge fire rages another day in the French department of Gironde. About 10,000 people had to leave their homes. Polish firefighters set off for France on Thursday afternoon. President Emmanuel Macron announced that help in extinguishing the fire will also be provided by Germany, Greece, Romania and Austria.

Due to the spreading fire in the south-west of the country, the French side on Wednesday asked through the EU’s Community mechanism for help in the firefighting operation. A massive fire broke out the day before near the town of Hostens in the Gironde department. The fire spread very quickly around the area, it consumed at least 6,200 hectares of forests. Over a thousand firefighters, supported by firefighting planes, fight the element. The fires forced the evacuation of about 10,000 people.

Polish firefighters on their way to France

Help in extinguishing the fire was declared by Poland. On Thursday with Legnica after 3 p.m. 146 firefighters and 49 cars to extinguish were set off. – They are going to help extinguish fires in the south of France. The mission was planned for 10 days – said the spokesman of the chief commander of the State Fire Service, Brigadier Karol Kierzkowski. Polish firefighters will come to the vicinity of Bordeaux, where almost 1000 ha of forests are burning.

The Polish rescue group consists of firefighters from the Zachodniopomorskie and Dolnośląskie voivodships. There are a total of two vehicle-based forest firefighting modules (two GFFFV modules).

Maciej Wąsik, deputy head of the Ministry of Interior and Administration, said that the trip to France was the 37th international mission of the State Fire Service. “We are one of the first – probably the first country – to respond to the request of the French,” noted the deputy minister. He said the group had been organized in less than 24 hours. “I am very pleased with the efficiency of our fire brigade,” said Wąsik, recalling that Polish firefighters played a significant role in extinguishing fires in Greece last summer.

“Poland, Germany, Greece, and in the coming hours Romania and Austria; our partners come to the aid of France in the fight against fires. Thanks to them, European solidarity works!” President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter on Thursday. The European Commission announced the dispatch of four aircraft from the EU fleet from Greece and Sweden.

It is hot and dry

One of the main difficulties in this firefighting operation is the terrain and its difficult accessibility, said Mathieu Jaumin, a spokesman for firefighters from the Gironde department.

Secondly, fire fighting is hampered by extreme weather conditions. “Temperatures in excess of 40 degrees Celsius and extremely low air humidity are conducive to the spread of the fire,” he said.

A burnt forest near the village of Belin-BelietPAP / EPA / CAROLINE BLUMBERG

“Deserted surroundings”

One of the places affected by the fire is Belin-Beliet. As the RTL-TVI TV journalist who stayed there described it, “I saw a district with completely destroyed houses”.

– I had the feeling that I could see a lunar landscape. The ground was black, covered with ash. The area was deserted. We were escorted by the fire brigade to be able to get to this area – he said.

As firefighter Gregory Allione reported on RTL radio on Wednesday, “this fire is an ogre, it’s a monster.”

“We are dealing with a fire that was much more virulent and violent than the one in July,” Marc Vermeulen of the department’s fire brigade said Wednesday. – The situation remains critical because the weather conditions are unfavorable – he said.

Fire in the Gironde departmentPAP / EPA / HANDOUT / SDIS 33

Evacuation of the population, destroyed houses

The fire spread so quickly that the inhabitants of the communes of Hostens, Belin-Béliet and Saint-Magne had to be evacuated. Late Wednesday afternoon, the department’s authorities announced that the number of evacuees was 10,000.

“It’s a catastrophe, both economic and ecological, it’s terrible,” Jean-Louis Dartiailh, Mayor of Hostens, told Radio Classique. – The area is completely disfigured. We are brokenhearted, we are exhausted – he added.

None of the civilians were injured, but the flames destroyed 17 houses. Part of the A63 motorway between Bordeaux and Bayonne as well as many smaller local roads have also been closed.

Fire in the Gironde departmentPAP / EPA / HANDOUT / SDIS 33

A fire from the past

The first hypotheses regarding the causes of the fire indicate that it is a consequence of the incomplete extinguishing of the fire that ravaged the vicinity of the city of Landiras in July. The flames may have been buried under a layer of peat, and the extremely dry and hot weather conditions that prevail in Gironde were enough to renew them. On Wednesday, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin expressed suspicions that the resumed fire may have been the work of arsonists.

– On Wednesday morning there were eight fires, between 8 and 9 am, which started several hundred meters apart, which is quite unusual – said the head of the Ministry of the Interior during a visit to Aveyron, another department hit by the element.

Fire in the Gironde departmentPAP / EPA / HANDOUT / SDIS 33

Since the beginning of the year, an area of ​​over 60,000 sq m has burned down in France. ha. This is more than six times the average for 2006-2021, according to the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS).

Reuters, Franceinfo, Le Progres, PAP

Main photo source: PAP / EPA / CAROLINE BLUMBERG

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