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More Firefighters Needed in France as Wildfires Rage Across Country

Photo Credit: Reuters

Another devastating fire affected the Gironde area in the southwest of France last Wednesday, just two weeks after two massive fires damaged over 20,000 hectares of forest in the same area. This has caused the French government to call companies so they can dispatch volunteer firefighters to make themselves available throughout August.

Authorities have long warned that the heightened frequency of heat waves across Europe would cause these phenomena to increase in incidence as well. Companies have now called on volunteers to prepare as forecasters predict more possible fires to be set ablaze in August. Drought conditions have exacerbated the problem, which has started to get worse since June.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told the press, “We are getting to a point of exhaustion for the firefighters.” Darmanin visited one of the offices of the fire department in Aveyron, which is located South of France.

The French Fire Fighter Service reported that of the 250,000 firefighters enlisted under the agency, 79% are volunteers. In the current fight against the wildfires occurring across France, over just 10,000 firefighters have been deployed. The recent call made by companies would increase the manpower in extinguishing fires that have destroyed the vegetation of France.

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The fire in Gironde

The Gironde fire started on Tuesday. When the blaze almost reached communities, many people evacuated to the nearest safe refuge area. As per a recent count by authorities, more than 10,000 residents have fled their homes to keep themselves safe from the fires. Martin Guesperau, the Nouvelle-Aquitaine prefecture’s deputy commissioner for defense and security, said that the Gironde fire had damaged over 6,000 hectares of forest.

The prefecture also said that due to the fire, the main A63 highway between Bordeaux and Bayonne would be cordoned off. “The fire is very virulent and has spread to the department of Landes,” he added.

In a press release, authorities handling the situation reported that are a total of 16 houses reached by the fire. Fortunately, there are no records of fatalities or injuries. “We are entering a difficult day with very high risks. The weather is extremely unfavorable at the moment,” authorities told the press.

More wildfires ravaging the country

Apart from the Gironde fire, French officials said they are simultaneously battling three other wildfires south of France. The French Minister, Elisabeth Borne, visited victims of the Gironde fire to consult them on possible relief and resolution.

The French government wants to impress upon its people that they are there in times of calamities and that the people can rely on them whenever they need their government’s assistance.

According to forecasts by the weather bureau, the southern region of France would see temperatures as high as 40 degrees Celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

Meanwhile, the European Drought Observatory of the European Union said that while everything is happening, over 63% of UK and EU land are under extreme drought warnings and signals. This means the continent may be headed for more wildfires and extreme heat conditions as the weeks pass.

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 The reported area by the EU is almost the size of India and greater than Alaska, Texas, and California – the biggest states in the US – combined. Moreover, the area mentioned by the EU’s observatory would see cloudless weather over the next few days, Copernicus, the climate monitoring agency of the EU, revealed.

“This new heatwave is associated with a robust high-pressure figure causing cloudlessness over much of western Europe,” Copernicus said in a statement.

“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,” Copernicus added.

“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 the chief executive of the Royal Meteorological Society, Liz Bentley.

Source: CNN

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