Strong winds and hot, dry weather are frustrating French firefighters’ efforts to contain a huge wildfire that raced across pine forests in the Bordeaux region Saturday for a fifth straight day, one of several scorching Europe in recent days.
Among the worst fires have been in Portugal, where the pilot of a firefighting plane died Friday when his plane crashed while on an operation in the northeast. It was the first fatality in fires in Portugal so far this year, which have injured more than 160 people and forced hundreds to be evacuated from towns this week.
Fire season has hit parts of Europe earlier than usual this year after an unusually dry, hot spring that authorities attribute to climate change.
Some 3,000 firefighters backed by water-dumping planes are battling blazes in southern France, the president said, and Greece sent firefighting equipment to help. More than 11,000 people have been evacuated from villages and campgrounds.
Firefighters managed to contain one of the worst fires overnight, near the Atlantic coast resort of Arcachon that is popular with tourists from around Europe, 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. They are focusing efforts Saturday on using fire trucks to surround villages at risk and save as many homes as possible, Charles Lafourcade, overseeing the firefighting operation, told reporters at the scene.
The two fires have burned at least 9,650 hectares (23,800 acres) of land in recent days.
A similar scene is playing out in Portugal, where more than 3,000 firefighters battled alongside ordinary Portuguese citizens desperate to save their homes from several wildfires that raged across the country, fanned by extreme temperatures and drought conditions. The country’s Civil Protection Agency said 10 fires were still raging Friday.
Portuguese state television RTP reported Friday that the area burned this year has already exceeded the total for 2021. More than 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres) of land has been burned, it said, most in the past week.
Spain, Croatia and Hungary have also fought wildfires this week, as have California and Morocco. Many European countries are facing exceptional heat this month also attributed to climate change.
Portuguese authorities said a July national high of 47 degrees Celsius (117 Fahrenheit) was registered in the northern town of Pinhao on Wednesday.
Britain’s Met Office weather agency issued its first-ever “red warning” of extreme heat for Monday and Tuesday, when temperatures in southern England are forecast to reach 37 Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit).