France braces for further wildfires as extreme temperatures continue

High temperatures and a worsening drought have intensified the risk of further wildfires breaking out in southwestern France, officials said.

The risk of new fires is “very severe” considering the weather conditions, the Gironde prefecture said.

“The day is likely to be complicated since temperatures continue to increase and humidity continues to drop, so obviously we remain vigilant and mobilised,” senior local official Ronan Leaustic told a news conference.

Temperatures as high as 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) were expected in the southwest, with high temperatures also expected across much of France, France’s official weather forecast Meteo France said.

Firefighters from Germany, Romania and Greece were on the ground to help France battle the fire in the Gironde region – home to Bordeaux wine – as well as on other fronts, including in Brittany in the northwest.

Some 7,400 hectares (18,000 acres) of forests have been caught up in the so-called Landiras blaze in the Gironde, and 10,000 people have been evacuated. 

“This fire season this year is far from over,” Pascal Martin, a centrist French senator and former firefighter told Europe 1 radio.

“Now though two lessons have to be learned, which is that the fires are extending both geographically and over time, no longer only in the south, but in the entire country, even in the Jura and in Brittany, and no longer just in the summer months.”

France is in the midst of its fourth heatwave of the year as the country faces what the government warned is its worst drought on record.

Meteo France said the current heatwave began in the south and is expected to spread across the country and last until the weekend. The southern half of France expects daytime temperatures of up to 40C and they will not drop below 20C during the night.

However, it added that this week’s heatwave will not be as intense as the one last month when several regions experienced record-breaking temperatures.

The high temperatures come during the most severe drought ever recorded, according to the French government. 

Last month was the driest July since measurements began in 1959.

Some farmers have started to see drops in production especially in soy, sunflower and corn yields.