Winds, Heat Worsen Fires in Europe

Fire season arrives early after a hot, dry spring
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 16, 2022 12:15 PM CDT
Winds, Heat Worsen Fires in Europe
A helicopter launches water as a wildfire advances near a residential area in Alhaurin de la Torre, Malaga, Spain, on Saturday.   (AP Photo/Gregorio Marrero)

Strong winds and hot, dry weather frustrated French firefighters' efforts Saturday to contain a huge wildfire that raced across pine forests in the Bordeaux region for a fifth straight day, one of several wildfires scorching Europe. Some of the worst fires have been in Portugal, where the pilot of a firefighting plane died Friday in a crash while on an operation in the northeast. It was the first fire fatality in Portugal this year, but the blazes have injured more than 160 people this week and forced hundreds to be evacuated. Fire season has hit parts of Europe earlier than usual after an unusually dry, hot spring that left the soil parched. Authorities attribute the problematic weather to climate change, the AP reports.

As the worst French fire moved closer to inhabited towns, some of the 11,000 people who evacuated in the region described fear and uncertainty about what they’d find when they return home. Images shared by firefighters showed flames shooting across a mass of pine trees and black smoke stretching across the horizon. Firefighters focused efforts Saturday on using fire trucks to surround villages at risk and save as many homes as possible. Some 3,000 firefighters backed by water-dumping planes are battling the blazes in southern France, the president said. Greece sent firefighting equipment to help.

French firefighters managed to contain one of the worst fires overnight, near the Atlantic coast resort of Arcachon that is popular with tourists, the regional emergency service said Saturday. But it said "tough meteorological conditions" thwarted efforts to contain the biggest fire in the region, which started in the town of Landiras, south of a valley of Bordeaux vineyards. The two fires have burned at least 23,800 acres in recent days. In Portugal, more than 1,000 firefighters worked Saturday alongside residents desperate to save their homes. Portuguese state television reported that the area burned this year—more than 74,000 acres—has already exceeded the total for 2021. Most of it burned in the past week. Across the border, Spain was struggling to contain several fires, including two that have burned about 18,200 acres.

(More wildfires stories.)

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