Nearly 15,000 hectares of vegetation have already been reduced to ashes in Gironde. Residents and vacationers, numbering 32,000, had to pack up urgently, including 16,000 people on Monday July 18 alone. Five evacuated campsites were destroyed by the flames. The Arcachon basin zoo evacuates its animals.
Monday was shaping up to be “one of the most difficult” that firefighters should face since the start of the fires in Gironde. The department has been hit by two gigantic fires for a week. “Despite the significant land and air resources engaged, the situation is not fixed,” laments Fabienne Buccio, the prefect of Gironde. “The situation is very complicated” in the face of a spreading fire, she reports.
In La Teste-de-Buch, near the Arcachon basin, 5,000 hectares went up in smoke over a perimeter of 9 kilometers. In scorching temperatures, some 8,000 people had to leave Les Miquelots and Pyla-sur-Mer, districts of La Teste-de-Buch. In the other disaster area, in Landiras in the south of the Gironde, around 8,000 people also had to leave their homes behind on Monday, in six municipalities. The fire has already devoured 10,500 hectares of forest there.
“We evacuated as many people on Monday as in the previous six days”, for a total of 32,000 preventive evacuations because of these “spreading” fires, said the prefect of Gironde, Fabienne Buccio. The five campsites from which 6,000 holidaymakers had been evacuated on Wednesday night, at the foot of the Dune du Pilat, “have burned down to 90%”, she added.
“Extremely Adverse” Conditions for Firefighters
“The evacuation should allow firefighters to focus on attacking the fire,” Lieutenant-Colonel Arnaud Mendousse, spokesman for the firefighters, told Agence France-Presse (AFP). In addition, “the fumes are toxic, it is a matter of public health to protect the population”, underlined the spokesperson for the firefighters.
On the ground, facing “outstanding” blazes and in infernal heat, some 1,700 firefighters from all over France are mobilized. “We saw phenomena that foresters have never seen before. The fire literally explodes, linked to the heat and the calorific potential present. The 40-year-old pine trunks are bursting, ”describes the director of the Departmental Fire and Rescue Service (SDIS 33), Marc Vermeulen.
Nine water bombers (six Canadair and three Dash) were also deployed. “To fight the Landiras forest fire, a 5 kilometer long and 40 meter wide firewall is being built in an attempt to stop the progression of the fire,” tweeted the Minister of interior and overseas, Gérald Darmanin. With a further change in wind direction expected overnight and “gusting to 80 km/h”, conditions are “extremely unfavourable”, according to firefighters.
At the end of the day, the air resources present in Gironde had to be redeployed in the Landes where another fire broke out. “Priority to incipient fire, that’s the rule,” explained the prefect. “But we don’t let it get us down, the fire doesn’t do what it wants, we thwart it. We build firewalls, ditches. »
A man taken into custody
A man was taken into police custody on Monday afternoon as part of the investigation into the Landiras fire, the Bordeaux prosecutor’s office announced in a press release. The ongoing investigation, “which is continuing with numerous expert reports and hearings of witnesses”, was opened for “destruction by fire of wood, forest, moor, maquis or plantation of others which may cause damage to people”, reported the same source.
The prosecution announced on Friday favoring the “criminal thesis” to explain the outbreak of this fire, one of the two that have raged since July 12 in Gironde with that of La Teste-de-Buch. In Landiras, “the criminal identification technicians were able to make findings which accredit a deliberately malicious act”, writes the prosecution in its press release.
The investigators made a connection between this disaster and other fire starts observed in the same area on the same day, at different times. However, “clues remain to be exploited in order to eliminate or retain the thesis of the same author”, explains the prosecution.
The Arcachon basin zoo evacuates its animals
Due to the fumes, more than a thousand animals will be evacuated from the Arcachon basin zoo in La Teste-de-Buch, the French Association of Zoological Parks (AFdPZ) announced on Monday. “Following recommendations from the authorities, we will do our best to evacuate all animals from the zoo in the Arcachon basin. Crating operations for transport have begun,” said AFdPZ director Cécile Erny. “Veterinarians and caretakers are also beginning to arrive from several zoos in the territory with vehicles, transport boxes and veterinary equipment to help evacuate the animals and ensure their safety and well-being,” said- she clarified.
The animals, some of which are more sensitive to smoke than others, such as primates, will then be transferred to the parking lot of the Pessac zoo, on the outskirts of Bordeaux, “while the cloud of smoke passes”, continued the director of the association based at the Beauval zoo.
Multiple fire starts elsewhere in France
The Bouches-du-Rhône, Finistère and even the Landes deplored the outbreak of fire in a context where drought and heat favor the development of fires. Thirty hectares of pines have already burned in the town of Vert, announced the Landes prefecture in a press release.
“A fire is underway in the Monts d’Arrée, at Brasparts”, alerted the prefect of Finistère on Twitter, in an area placed in heatwave red vigilance. “At this time, the fire is still spreading and 151 hectares of vegetation have burned,” said the prefect.
In the Bouches-du-Rhône, the fire, which started Thursday at the foot of the Montagnette massif, in the north of the Bouches-du-Rhône, burning some 1,500 hectares, underwent a new recovery Monday afternoon, forcing the department’s firefighters to mobilize a further 500 firefighters. “There are several small departures, but everything is under control”, we tempered on the side of the firefighters.