The heat wave is expected to continue in the south of the country on Friday July 15, with eleven departments on heatwave orange vigilance. It is in a context of high heat that firefighters still face two aggressive forest fires in Gironde, with more than 7,850 hectares burned, according to the prefecture of the department. Near Avignon, a “virulent” fire was contained during the evening.

These fires, which did not cause any casualties, were triggered at the start of the heat wave episode which has affected France since Monday. On Thursday, “forest fire” vigilance went up a notch in Gironde, turning red (scale 4 to 5), a measure imitated in the neighboring department of Landes since Friday morning.

Since Tuesday, 4,500 hectares have burned in the Landiras sector, a sparsely populated area, about forty kilometers south of Bordeaux. “In the state of the investigations, the criminal thesis is privileged”, announced the parquet floor of Bordeaux, Friday, specifying “that all the tracks continue to be explored” and that “no police custody is in progress” .

On the other front, in La Teste-de-Buch, some 3,200 hectares of pines went up in smoke in this forest backed by the Pilat dune. In this area, no lead is currently favored by the investigators.

More than 12,000 people were evacuated from the area, from campsites near the Dune du Pilat, as well as from the Cazaux military base. “The situation is still unfavorable” on these two fires, which a thousand firefighters are fighting, estimated the prefecture. “The fires are still not fixed, and unfortunately the conditions are similar, with wind forecasts for today”, explained to Agence France-Presse the commander Matthieu Jomain, spokesperson for the firefighters of the Gironde.

According to the prefecture, “three houses and two restaurants [were] destroyed” in the Cazaux sector. The prefecture asks holidaymakers not to approach the sector of the Dune du Pilat, backed by the forest and closed to the public.

Wind, high heat in Gironde

According to the director of the Gironde fire brigade, Marc Vermeulen, the priority during the night was to protect property and homes from the flames in Cazaux, where 4,000 people were evacuated. In Landiras, a sparsely populated area, hamlets had to be evacuated on Thursday, and the situation is “very unfavorable, with several reactivations of fires”, according to the prefecture.

The approximately 6,000 people who had been evacuated from five campsites near the Dune du Pilat to an exhibition center have mostly already left the scene, most having returned home or having found accommodation elsewhere in this very touristy area. Their return to the campsite, to collect their belongings, is still “absolutely impossible”, however declared the sub-prefect of Arcachon, Ronan Leaustic.

Fire set in the Montagnette massif

In the Bouches-du-Rhône, some 900 firefighters remain mobilized against the fire which has struck the Montagnette massif since Thursday, south of Avignon, the mistral coming to complicate their work. If this blaze is now fixed, the wind caused a few flare-ups on Friday and the area covered is now 1,276 hectares.

The events also took a legal turn with the opening of an investigation for involuntary fire, this fire having obviously been started by a freight train. “According to testimonies, this freight train would have generated sparks on several occasions,” explained the Tarascon prosecutor. This train “caused nine fire starts,” according to Lt. Col. Pierre Bisone, saying it was “probably related to a jammed brake shoe.”

“These are 50-year-old trees that went up in smoke, in this forest that we protected like the apple of our eyes,” said Jean-Christophe Daudet, mayor of Barbentane, saying he was considering filing a complaint against the SNCF.

Thursday, at the end of the day, this fire, pushed by a south wind, had invaded Avignon with an impressive plume of smoke and a rain of ashes.

According to Météo-France, heat waves will become “more frequent, earlier”, causing summers “increasingly hot, where 35°C will be the norm”. For scientists, the multiplication and lengthening of heat waves, aggravated by greenhouse gas emissions, constitute an unequivocal marker of global warming.

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