Forest fires and heat wave in Western Europe

(Lisbon) Parts of Western Europe continued to battle devastating bushfires on Saturday as a result of a heat wave that could smash many temperatures early next week, forecasters said.

Posted at 7:38
Updated at 12:08 PM.

Bruno CRAVO with the European offices of AFP
France media agency

In southwest France, the mobilization of firefighters did not weaken on Saturday to fix the fires, notably in the Gironde where smoke from nearly 10,000 hectares of forest has erupted since Tuesday, in the context of a generalized heat wave where temperatures can reach. 40°C locally, according to Météo-France.

Image SDIS 33 via Reuters

Firefighters attempt to control a forest fire near Landeras, in the Gironde, on July 13.

In the Arcachon tourist basin, on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, the efforts made made it possible to slow the progress of the fire. “We are still, and this is a relief, 3,150 hectares have burned, but the fire is still out of control,” the state representative told the press, welcoming the firefighters with “enormous intensity and mobilization.”

The recoveries were made in the last hours on the side of the nearby beaches.

Inland, the fire continues to advance in two small towns, where “more than 7,000 hectares” have been burned, according to authorities.

And these fires, which mobilized more than a thousand firefighters, since Tuesday, have resulted in the evacuation of more than 12 thousand people.

Tranquility in the Iberian Peninsula

PHOTO PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA, AFP

A firefighter fights a fire threatening the village of Erez in Baiao, northern Portugal, on July 15.

Portugal is experiencing relative calm, with only one large fire still active on Saturday in the north of the country.

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“We plan to contain this fire during the day,” civil protection chief Andre Fernandez said.

AFP journalists immediately testified that this fire appeared to have lost its intensity in the early afternoon. If the firefighters could not reach the wooded hill from which the white smoke came out, the work of the firefighting helicopter succeeded at this point in limiting the development of the flames.

A day earlier, a seaplane fighting a forest fire crashed in the Guarda (North) region, killing the pilot, its only passenger.

Photo by Susanna Vera/Reuters.

A helicopter fights a fire near Riomalo de Arriba, Spain, on July 14.

According to a report issued by the Portuguese Civil Protection, last week’s fires left two dead and nearly sixty injured. According to his estimates, since the onset of the heat wave, these fires have destroyed between 12,000 and 15,000 hectares of forests and trees.

In Spain, dozens of fires are still burning from the north to the south of the country. In the Extremadura region, on the border with Portugal, part of the A5 motorway, which connects Madrid to the Portuguese border, can reopen to traffic after being closed for more than twelve hours due to a fire.

Farther south, in Andalusia, a fire near Malaga led to the precautionary evacuation of more than 3,000 people, according to Andalusian emergency services.

In Greece, firefighters continued to combat the outbreak that broke out on Friday morning, causing the precautionary evacuation of seven villages in a rural area of ​​Rethymno prefecture on the island of Crete.

Spain’s weather agency kept almost the entire country under varying levels of high temperatures on Saturday, with values ​​above 40°C in many areas and as high as 44°C in some places.

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In Portugal, not only has the southern Algarve region been on high alert. In the rest of the country, the Meteorological Institute expects temperatures to reach 42 degrees Celsius in some places on Saturday.

UK red alert

Further north in Europe, in the United Kingdom, a crisis committee made up of British government ministers was due to meet on Saturday after the National Weather Agency issued its first-ever “red” alert for extreme heat, warning of a “risk to life”.

The Met Office said temperatures in southern England could hit 40C for the first time on Monday or Tuesday, potentially breaking the record high of 38.7C since 2019.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has advised Londoners to use public transport only on these days when it is “absolutely necessary”. Rail companies also urged travelers to avoid travel.

Some schools in southern England have told parents that they will remain closed from the start of next week.

This heat wave is the second in barely a month in Europe. The proliferation of these phenomena is a direct result of global warming according to scientists, with greenhouse gas emissions increasing in intensity, duration and frequency.

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