Wildfire rages near France’s Bordeaux wine region

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Firefighters from several European countries have deployed to France to help battle a raging wildfire that has torn through the country’s southwest, French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday.

Officials say the fire in the Gironde region is one of the most violent of the season. The blaze, which reignited Tuesday, has swept through towns and villages and burned nearly 17,000 acres of forest, forcing more than 10,000 people to evacuate from their homes.

“It’s the first time we’ve seen a fire like this,” firefighter Jérôme Jean told France’s BFM channel. Some residents were forced to escape to their rooftops, the BBC reported.

The wildfire comes amid an especially hot summer in France and across Europe, as well as a record-breaking drought. Over the past two months, temperatures have soared to 104 Fahrenheit in the southwest, home to the Bordeaux wine region.

In recent days, thick clouds of smoke have towered over the area’s beaches and highways, prompting local authorities to close the A63 motorway linking Bordeaux with northern Spain.

The fire initially began in July, France’s driest month since 1961, France24 reported. It burned through 34,000 acres and continued to smolder in the region’s dry pine forests, the network said, adding that officials suspect arson may have contributed to the most recent flare-up.

Sweltering heat and strong winds have since created a tinderbox effect, experts say, hampering efforts to beat back the flames.

Extreme drought in much of Europe has also parched the landscape, helping ignite an estimated 264 fires across France this year alone, according to data collected by the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS).

Nearly half of Europe is now under “warning conditions,” indicating severe drought and a major soil moisture deficit, according to the European Drought Observatory.

“The area is totally disfigured. We’re heartbroken, we’re exhausted,” the mayor of the French town of Hostens, Jean-Louis Dartiailh, told Radio Classique, Reuters reported.

“[This fire] is the final straw,” he said.

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