Jul 19, 2022 - World

Firefighters struggle to contain deadly wildfires raging across Europe

A firefighter waves to colleagues during an operation to try to control a forest fire near Louchats, some 35kms from Landiras in Gironde, southwestern France on July 18, 2022.
A firefighter waves to colleagues during an operation to try to control a forest fire near Louchats, France on July 18. Photo: Philippe Lopez/AFP via Getty Images

Firefighters in France, Portugal, Spain, the U.K. and other parts of Europe on Tuesday continued to battle raging wildfires that have forced thousands to flee and caused several deaths.

The big picture: Countries across Europe are facing record-breaking temperatures as a deadly heat wave grips parts of the continent.

Driving the news: "The European heatwave is ... exacerbating the scale and intensity of wildfires currently raging across southern Europe, especially in southwestern France, Spain and Portugal," the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service warned Tuesday.

  • "Tinder dry conditions and extreme heat" are worsening the risk of wildfires, with "a large proportion" of western Europe in "extreme fire danger," including some areas in "very extreme fire danger," the CAMS warned, citing data from the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts.

What's happening:

France

Some of the worst blazes are in southwestern France, where firefighters are struggling to contain weeks-old and new fires in La Teste-de-Buch, Landiras, Vensac and other towns, per The Guardian.

  • The blazes in the Gironde region have spread across 27,000 acres, CNN reported. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced.
  • Several campsites near Dune du Pilat, Europe's tallest sand dune and a popular tourist destination, have been destroyed, per The Guardian.
Flames rise at a forest fire near Louchats, France.
Flames rise at a forest fire near Louchats, France. Photo: Philippe Lopez/AFP via Getty Images
Spain

In Spain, at least two people, including a firefighter, have been killed as fires rage in the northwestern province of Zamora.

  • A man in Tábara is being hailed a hero after dramatic footage showed him narrowly escaping a fire that engulfed his excavator as he dug a trench to protect his town, per Reuters. He was taken to the hospital with severe burns.
  • So far, at least 20 blazes have burned more than 11,000 acres of land from the southern part of the country to the northwest, The Guardian reported, citing Spanish officials.
  • Worth noting: More than 1,100 heat-related deaths in Spain and France have been recorded since the latest heat wave began.
A woman cries at the state of her home affected by the fire, in the River Park urbanization, on 19 July, 2022 in Pont de Vilomara, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
A woman cries at the state of her home affected by the fire, in the River Park urbanization, on July 19 in Pont de Vilomara, Barcelona, Spain. Photo: Lorena Sopena/Europa Press via Getty Images
U.K.
  • London officials on Tuesday declared a "major incident" after several "significant" fires broke out in and around the city.
  • The London Fire Brigade encouraged London residents to avoid having barbecues or bonfires on Tuesday, saying the "ground is incredibly dry, which means even the smallest sparks could cause a fire."
  • Earlier Tuesday, the U.K. broke its national record for the highest temperature ever registered, with a provisional reading of 104.36 degrees Fahrenheit (40.2 degrees Celsius) at London's Heathrow Airport, according to the country's weather service.
  • Fires have also broken out in other parts of England and Wales, the BBC reported.
Smoke from fires that had broken out in the hot weather seen on July 19, 2022 in Wennington, England.
Smoke from fires that had broken out in the hot weather seen on July 19 in Wennington, England. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images
Portugal
  • At least four deaths have been blamed on fires in Portugal, per The Guardian.
  • More than 1,000 firefighters are battling blazes across northern and central parts of the country, according Portugal's National Emergency and Civil Protection Authority.
  • Initial estimates show that more than 24,000 acres have been burned in the district of Vila Real, the country's state broadcaster RTP reported Tuesday, citing the mayor of Murça in northern Portugal.
A firefighter tackles a forest fire around the village of Eiriz in Baiao, north of Portugal, on July 15, 2022. (Photo by Patricia De Melo MOREIRA
A firefighter tackles a forest fire around the village of Eiriz in Baiao, north of Portugal, on July 15. Photo: Patricia De Melo Moreira/AFP via Getty Images
Other parts of world
  • Firefighters are also responding to fires in Croatia, Hungry and Greece. Two areas on the outskirts of Athens were evacuated as fires threatened homes.
  • The fires in Europe come as officials are struggling to contain blazes in Morocco, South Korea, parts of the U.S. and elsewhere around the world, per Reuters.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details throughout.

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