European firefighters join the battle to stop forest fires in France

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PARIS — Firefighters from across Europe began arriving in France on Friday to help fight several wildfires, including a giant blaze ravaging pine forests in the southwest.

A series of heat waves worsened a critical drought across much of Europe to create optimal wildfire conditions. Portugal had pine forests scorching for a seventh day on Friday, while Britain sweated through another day of unusually hot weather.

The fire brigade in France’s Gironde region said the spread of the wildfire had been limited overnight due to little wind, but conditions to contain the blaze remained “unfavorable” due to the weather. hot and dry.

The fire in the Gironde and neighboring Landes region has burned more than 74 square kilometers (29 square miles) since Tuesday and prompted the evacuation of at least 10,000 people.

More than 360 firefighters and 100 specialized ground vehicles were sent from Germany, Romania, Poland and Austria. They join more than 1,000 French firefighters already on site. Greece sent two specialized Canadair planes.

Sweden has deployed two Air Tractor firefighting planes to help fight another forest fire, in the Brittany region of western France, which burned a patch of the Paimpont forest, also known as the name of Brocéliande from the mythical events described in the medieval legend of King Arthur. .

More than 600 square kilometers (232 sq mi) of forest land has burned since the start of the year in France, more than any other year in the past decade, according to the European Forest Fire Information System ( EFFIS).

The European Union’s Copernicus Earth Watch program said satellite observations showed estimated carbon emissions from forest fires in France in June, July and August were the highest since 2003, reflecting the severity of this year’s fire season.

In Portugal, more than 1,600 firefighters, 500 vehicles and 17 aircraft battled the week-long blaze that charred around 10 square kilometers (4 square miles). Much of the scorched land is Serra da Estrela National Park, a protected natural area and UNESCO World Heritage Site that is sparsely populated.

Burning areas are difficult to reach for firefighters on the ground due to high peaks and deep ravines, but two of the country’s three Canadair water spill planes have been unavailable in recent days for mechanical reasons.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said only one plane dropping water from Spain was available to help as other Spanish planes were deployed to France under the European Union’s mutual aid system.

“Unlike how things were when wildfires were mainly in southern Europe, unfortunately now they are more widespread,” Costa said, describing the emergency cooperation mechanism of the EU like fully stretched.

In central Germany, near Schierke, hundreds of rescue workers fought a major forest fire in the Harz National Park, German news agency dpa reported.

The UK Met Service has extended an extreme heat warning through the weekend for most of England and parts of Wales. Temperatures were predicted above 30 degrees Celsius (86 F) and to reach up to 36 degrees Celsius (96.8 F) in some places before cooler weather and rain arrive next week.

The Met Office said many people are expected to feel the effects of hot weather on their health, especially those who are heat sensitive.

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