France halts spread of "monster" wildfire, reopens highway


A view shows a wildfire burning in the Jura department in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comte region, France, August 11, 2022, in this still image taken from a social media video. Colonel Cyril Fournier/via REUTERS

PARIS (Reuters) - Firefighters have managed to halt the spread of a "monster" blaze in southwest France, allowing authorities to reopen a stretch of highway to traffic ahead of a busy travel weekend.

"The fire did not advance overnight thanks to the significant means employed," the local prefect said in a tweet Saturday.

Reinforcements from across Europe helped local firefighters tackle the blaze which has ravaged forests in France's Gironde region since Tuesday and forced 10,000 people to evacuate their homes. The fire has been fanned by wind and scorching temperatures of up to 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in recent days.

The southwest of France had already been hit by fires in July that destroyed more than 20,000 hectares of forest and temporarily forced almost 40,000 people from their homes.

Successive heatwaves have sparked wildfires across Europe this summer, throwing the spotlight on the risks of climate change to industry and livelihoods.

Storms are expected to sweep through France on Saturday night, bringing down temperatures and prompting severe weather warnings.

Over a thousand French firefighters were supported by hundreds of firefighters from across Europe, as well as trucks and waterbombing aircrafts, which continued to arrive Saturday.

Hundreds of firemen are also fighting fires further north in Brittany, where a blaze has burned 400 hectares, as well as in the Jura region in the east, where more than 500 hectares have burned.

More than 60,000 hectares (230 square miles) have gone up in flames so far in France this year, six times the full-year average for 2006-2021, data from the European Forest Fire Information System shows.

(Reporting by Mimosa Spencer; Editing by Christina Fincher)

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