Wildfires rage in French wine country as pilot dies while fighting blaze in Portugal

Strong winds and hot, dry weather are frustrating the efforts of French firefighters to contain a massive wildfire that has raged for a fifth straight day in the pine forests of the Bordeaux region, one of several across Europe in recent days.

Among the worst fires occurred in Portugal, where the pilot of a firefighting plane died on Friday after his plane crashed on a north-easterly operation.

More than 160 people have been injured and hundreds have been forced to evacuate their cities this week, the first deaths in fires in Portugal this year.

Fire season has hit parts of Europe earlier than usual this year after an unusually dry and warm spring that officials attribute to climate change.

About 3,000 firefighters, supported by water jets, are battling a blaze in southern France, President Emmanuel Macron said, adding that Greece has sent firefighting equipment.

More than 11,000 people have been displaced from villages and camps.

Firefighters managed to contain one of the worst blazes overnight near the Atlantic beach resort of Arcachon, popular with tourists from Europe, the region’s emergency services said.

Wildfire burning in forest behind grassland, lots of smoke.
The largest fire in the region broke out in the town of Landras, south of the Bordeaux vineyards valley.(AP: SDIS 33)

Fire trucks surrounded the villages to save the houses

But he said “strong meteorological conditions” had hampered efforts to contain the largest fire in the region’s southern town of Landras, south of the Bordeaux vineyards.

Charles Lafourcade, who is overseeing the firefighting operations, said they are focusing efforts to surround the villages at risk and save as many houses as possible, using firefighters.

The two fires have burned at least 9,650 hectares in the past few days.

A similar scene is playing out in Portugal, where more than 3,000 firefighters are fighting alongside ordinary Portuguese citizens to save their homes from several wildfires caused by high temperatures and drought.

The country’s civil protection agency said 10 fires were still burning over the weekend.

The firefighting plane drops water on the wildfire.
Firefighters in Portugal have been battling wildfires for days as the country hit a national record high of 47C in July.(Reuters: Rodrigo Antunes)

According to the Portuguese state television RTP, the area burned this year exceeded the total for 2021. More than 30,000 hectares of land have burned, mainly in the last week.

Across the border, Spain was struggling to contain several fires, including two that burned 7,400 hectares.

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