A wildfire was advancing through the Gironde region of southwestern France on Wednesday, destroying homes and forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents, some of whom had clambered onto rooftops as the flames got closer.
More than 1,000 firefighters backed by water-bombing aircraft were fighting the fire that has razed more than 6,000 hectares and is still burning out of control.
France, like the rest of Europe, is struggling with successive heatwaves and its worst drought on record. Dozens of wildfires are ablaze across the country, including at least four other major ones.
In the village of Hostens in the Gironde, police went door to door telling residents to leave as the fire advanced. Camille Delay fled with her partner and her son, grabbing their two cats, chickens and house insurance papers before taking flight.
“Everyone in the village climbed onto their rooftops to see what was happening – within ten minutes a little twist of smoke became enormous,” the 30-year-old told Reuters by telephone.
The local Gironde authority described the blaze as “rampant”.
Firefighters said more evacuations were likely. Even so, some Hostens residents were reluctant to abandon their homes.
“It’s complicated to go with the dogs and we cannot leave them here,” said Allisson Horan, 18, who stayed behind with her father.
“I’m getting worried because the fire is in a plot of land behind ours and the wind is starting to change direction,” she added.
The Gironde wildfire is one of many that have broken out across Europe this summer, triggered by heatwaves that have baked the continent and brought record temperatures to some places.
In Portugal, nearly 1,200 firefighters backed by eight aircraft have battled a blaze in the mountainous Covilha area some 280 km (174 miles) northeast of Lisbon that has burned more than 3,000 hectares of forest since Saturday.
Spain and Greece have also had to tackle multiple fires in the past few weeks.
The Gironde was hit by major wildfires in July which destroyed more than 20,000 hectares of forest and temporarily forced almost 40,000 people from their homes.
Authorities believe the latest inferno was a result of the previous fires still smouldering in the area’s peaty soil.
Fires were also raging in the southern departments of Lozere and Aveyron. In the Maine et Loire department in western France, more than 1,200 hectares have been scorched by another fire.