Photo Credit: Reuters
Last Wednesday, another disastrous fire struck the Gironde region in southwest France, just two weeks after two massive fires in the same area destroyed over 20,000 hectares of forest. As a result, the French government has requested that companies dispatch volunteer firefighters to be available throughout August.
Authorities have long warned that the increased frequency of heat waves across Europe would increase the occurrence of these phenomena. Companies have now called on volunteers to help them prepare as forecasters predict more fires in August. Drought conditions have exacerbated the situation, which has worsened since June.
“We are getting to a point of exhaustion for the firefighters,” French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told the press after visiting one of the fire department’s offices in Aveyron, which is located in southern France.
According to the French Fire Fighter Service, 79% of the 250,000 firefighters enlisted in the agency are volunteers. Over 10,000 firefighters have been deployed in the current fight against wildfires raging across France. Companies have recently requested more manpower to extinguish fires that have destroyed France’s vegetation.
The devastation of the Gironde fire
Tuesday had seen the beginning of the Gironde fire. Many individuals fled to the closest location offering safe sanctuary when the fire came dangerously close to reaching communities. Over 10,000 individuals have reportedly left their houses to avoid the fires, according to a recent assessment by the authorities. According to Martin Guesperau, the Gironde fire destroyed over 6,000 hectares of woodland.
The prefecture also stated that the main A63 highway between Bordeaux and Bayonne would be shut down due to the fire. “The fire is very virulent and has spread to the Landes department,” he added.
Authorities in charge of the situation reported in a press release that the fire had managed to reach 16 houses. Fortunately, no fatalities or injuries have been reported. “We are entering a difficult day with very high risks. The weather is extremely unfavorable at the moment,” officials told the press.
More wildfires in the country
Aside from the Gironde fire, French officials said they are battling three other wildfires in the south of France at the same time. Elisabeth Borne, the French Minister, visited Gironde fire victims to discuss possible relief and resolution.
The French government wishes to convey to its people that they are available in times of disaster and that they can rely on them whenever they require assistance from their government.
According to weather forecasts, temperatures in the southern region of France could reach 40 degrees Celsius, or 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
Meanwhile, the European Union’s European Drought Observatory reported that, while everything is happening, over 63% of UK and EU land is under extreme drought warnings and signals. This means that the continent may face more wildfires and extreme heat in the coming weeks.
The EU’s reported area is nearly the size of India and larger than the combined areas of Alaska, Texas, and California, the three largest states in the United States. Furthermore, the area mentioned by the EU’s observatory would see cloudless weather over the next few days, according to Copernicus, the EU’s climate monitoring agency.
“This new heatwave is associated with a robust high-pressure figure causing cloudlessness over much of western Europe,” Copernicus stated.
“According to the national weather services, air temperatures between 9 and 14 August could again exceed 44°C (111.2 Fahrenheit) in Spain, 40°C (104 Fahrenheit) in France, 35°C (95 Fahrenheit) in the south of the United Kingdom and 30°C (86 Fahrenheit) in the Netherlands,” added Copernicus.
“Then you combine that with the lack of rainfall — and for some parts of Europe, there’s been below average rainfall now for 15 or 16 months — there’s been a very prolonged period of dry weather, and so rivers and reservoirs have got down to very, very low levels,” said Liz Bentley, the chief executive of the Royal Meteorological Society.
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