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‘Extreme vigilance’ as vast southwestern France fire slows

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A massive fire that has devastated parts of southwestern France has been largely contained, but firefighters face another “complicated” day, local authorities said Friday.

The 40-kilometer (25 mi) active fire front in the Gironde and Landes departments around Bordeaux “is not developed, but weather conditions are forcing us to be extremely vigilant,” Deputy Prefect Ronan Leaustic told reporters.

No new evacuations had been ordered on top of the 10,000 people already asked to leave, he added.

But “today is likely to get complicated as temperatures continue to rise and groundwater levels continue to fall,” Leaustic said.

The roughly 1,100 French firefighters on the ground were reinforced on Thursday by 361 comrades drawn from European neighbors, including Germany, Poland, Austria and Romania, along with several water bombardments from the European Union fleet.

In the hard-hit area around the village of Hostens, the thick smoke seen on Thursday had given way to blue skies and occasional clouds on Friday morning, an AFP journalist noted.

France has been ravaged this summer by the historic drought that has led to restrictions on water use across the country, as well as a series of heatwaves that experts say are caused by climate change.

The Bordeaux fire broke out in July – the driest month in France since 1961 – destroying 14,000 hectares and forcing thousands of people to evacuate before it was under control.

But it continued to smolder in the tinder-dry pine forests and peat-rich soil.

Officials suspect arson played a role in the latest flare-up, which has burned 7,400 hectares (18,000 acres) since Tuesday.


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