Forest fires in Portugal and France

Forest fires in Portugal and France

Earlier in the week, the wildfire in Portugal initially appeared to be under control – but then flared up again on Tuesday afternoon. About 1,000 firefighters are fighting the blaze. The Serra da Estrela Natural Park is located in the highest area of ​​mainland Portugal, with the highest peaks reaching almost 2,000 meters above sea level. Environmental protection organization Quercus fears the fires will result in a significant loss of biodiversity.

Like many other countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, Portugal is suffering this year with an exceptional drought. The National Weather Institute recorded the hottest July in over 100 years. According to data from the ICNF Nature Conservation Institute, 70,000 hectares of vegetation have been burned since the beginning of the year.

The French forest fire is affecting a region close to the heart of Bordeaux’s wine region. “I would classify the fire in Landiras as a megafire,” Gregory Allione of the French firefighters association FNSPF told RTL radio. “He’s a monster, a monster.” Forest fires broke out in the Gironde region this week, destroying homes and evacuating around 10,000 residents. Some of the residents had to be rescued from the roofs of their homes because the flames were too close.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne wanted to visit the Gironde during the day to get an overview. In view of the extreme heat and severe drought, several fires have occurred recently in France and other European countries. More than 6,800 hectares of forest were burned. Authorities have warned that temperatures will remain very high until Saturday. The area had already been severely affected in July. At that time, over 20,000 hectares of forest were destroyed and nearly 40,000 people had to evacuate their homes at times.

France receives European support in the fight against the violent forest fires on the Atlantic coast. The EU Commission has sent four firefighting planes to France through the European Civil Protection Mechanism, which were previously stationed in Greece and Spain, Brussels authorities announced on Thursday. In addition, fire teams from Austria, Germany, Poland and Romania are on their way to France to support French forces. “Our partners are helping France,” President Emmanuel Macron said. “European solidarity works.”

“The deployment in the forest fire areas in France shows once again how much the experience of Austrian firefighters is valued internationally,” said Interior Minister Gerhard Karner (ÖVP). On Thursday evening, the first part of a unit of the Lower Austria State Firefighters Association was transferred to the Bordeaux area, the second will follow by air on Friday. The expected duration of use is several days. “This summer of drought has the whole of Europe in its grip,” emphasized Lieutenant Governor Stephan Pernkopf (ÖVP).

The fire brigade also battled a large forest fire on the Greek island of Thassos on Thursday. One village had to be evacuated. Six firefighting planes, six helicopters and hundreds of firefighters, volunteers and military units are deployed to contain the blaze, the fire department announced in the morning. The island in the northern Aegean is heavily forested. Thick clouds of smoke could be seen from afar in the morning, local media reported. No one has been injured so far, the island’s mayor, Lefteris Kyriakidis, said on state radio.

A fire also broke out on Thursday near the Italian port of Trieste, in the Duino area. Because of the flames, the motorway exit to Trieste was closed, officials said. The lockdown was necessary to allow firefighters to put out the fire. A helicopter was also in action. It is already the fifth major fire in the karst area in the last three weeks. So far, more than 500 hectares of forest have been destroyed. Investigators suspect arson. In recent weeks, fires in Friuli Venezia Giulia have even disrupted regional rail traffic and the A4 (Venice-Trieste) motorway.