Fire south of Bordeaux in France forces 10,000 to evacuate

Q400 drops retardant on a fire in France
A Q400 drops retardant on a fire in France. Reuters.

The number of acres burned this year in France through mid-August, 148,000, is six times the full-year annual average over the last 15 years. Currently there are eight large fires in the country.

In the southwest, the Gironde region south of Bordeaux has been especially hard hit. One of the fires started a month ago and burned 14,000 acres. It was thought to be controlled, but officials said it either “reignited” on Tuesday or arson may have played a role. Since then it has blackened an additional 18,000 acres, destroyed or damaged 17 homes, and prompted about 10,000 residents to evacuate.

It has forced the closure of the A63 motorway, a major route to Spain between Bordeaux and Bayonne.

The difficulty in suppressing the fires is being attributed to record-breaking drought, strong winds, and high temperatures occasionally hitting 104 Fahrenheit in the southwest.

wildfires in France in the Gironde region map
The red areas represent heat detected at wildfires in France in the Gironde region south of Bordeaux during the 31-day period ending August 12, 2022. FIRMS.

International assistance is coming in the form of 65 firefighters from Germany, others from Romania, Austria, and Poland, and water scooping air tankers from Greece and Sweden.

firefighters Romania are assisting France
Dozens of firefighters from Romania are assisting France

France has a fleet of nine S-2 air tankers and has purchased six Q400 MR air tankers, with at least four having been delivered.

There is also large fire in the mountainous Serra de Estrela park in central Portugal, where 24,000 acres have burned. It is being fought by about 1,500 firefighters.

map Fires Portugal Serra Da Estrela Natural Park
The red areas represent heat detected by satellites in Portugal’s Serra de Estrela Natural Park during the 7-day period ending August 12, 2022.

Very large fire break being constructed in Southwest France

About 1,000 feet wide

firebreak wildfires southwest France
Fire break under construction in Southwest France. July, 2022. France24.

The Bordeaux region in Southwest France has experienced many fires in the last few weeks that have burned a total of about 50,000 acres (20,000 Ha). Thinking that it will stop future fires, officials are building a large fire break three miles (5 K) long and about 1,000 feet (300 meters) wide.

map wildfires southwest france
Red areas on a map of Southwest France represent heat at wildfires detected by satellites during the seven-day period ending July 22, 2022. NASA FIRMS.

In parts of the Western United States back in the 1960s building fire breaks was a common practice. Some were only one or two dozer blades wide scraped down to mineral soil, while others were wider. But in later decades firefighters realized that no firebreak is likely to stop a rapidly spreading blaze.

Fires become large most often because they are burning in copious amounts of vegetation (fuel) during strong winds. Under unusually hot, dry, and windy conditions burning embers are lofted into the air. As they are blown downwind they can ignite new fires, “spot fires”, hundreds of feet or even up to a mile away from the main fire. Usually these embers are small, but can be as large as tree branches or even a four-by-eight-foot sheet of plywood, both of which have come close to or even hit air tankers working over the fire.

Under extreme conditions nothing will stop a large fire unless it completely runs out of fuel over a very large area, or the weather changes. A 1,000-foot fire break can stop a slow moving fire, but not a conflagration of the type that wipes out dozens of structures.

Something that cannot be ignored is that removal of all vegetation can result in severe environmental damage.

In the United States land managers are now more prone to build fuel breaks. They do not attempt to remove all vegetation, but only reduce it to the point where it will slow the spread of a fire enough that firefighters, sometimes aided by aircraft dropping water or fire retardant, can safely move in close to the flanks, make a direct attack, anchor the heel, and work their way along the edges and eventually stop the head of the fire. Fuel breaks helped firefighters last year on the Caldor Fire near South Lake Tahoe in California.

The first video below describes the firebreak in France. The next one is an update on the wildfires in the southwest part of the country.

Additional wildfires break out in Europe as extreme heat continues

Multiple wildland-urban interface fires in greater London destroy dozens of homes

Multiple wildland-urban interface fires destroyed structures United Kingdom
Multiple wildland-urban interface fires destroyed structures in the UK July 19, 2022. Sky News.

On Tuesday the wildland fire danger north of London reached the “Very Extreme” stage which is three steps up from High which is followed by Very High and Extreme.

Highest ever temperatures were experienced in the United Kingdom. London Heathrow airport was among six locations to reach 104 degrees (40 Celsius) on Tuesday, shattering Britain’s all-time temperature record after the country declared a national emergency, well above the 2019 record of 101.7 degrees (38.7 Celsius).

Wildland fire danger in the UK, July 19, 2022
Wildland fire danger in the UK, July 19, 2022.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said on Twitter: “London Fire Brigade has just declared a major incident in response to a huge surge in fires across the capital today. This is critical: @LondonFire is under immense pressure.”

The agency listed 11 fires they were dealing with Tuesday at 3 p.m. local time. At least 10 involve vegetation:

  • Thirty fire engines dealing with a grass fire on Pea Lane in Upminster.
  • Fifteen fire engines tackling a fire on The Green in Wennington.
  • Twelve fire engines tackling a fire involving garden fencing and trees on Uxbridge Road in Pinner.
  • Ten fire engines tackling a restaurant fire on Green Lanes in Southgate.
  • Eight fire engines tackling a grass fire on Oaks Road in Croydon.
  • Eight fire engines tackling a grass fire on Ballards Road in Dagenham.
  • Eight fire engines tackling a fire on The Broadway in Wembley.
  • Six fire engines tackling a grass fire on Sunningfields Crescent in Hendon.
  • Four fire engines tackling a grass fire on Chapel View in Croydon.
  • Four fire engines tackling a fire on Sidcup Road in Eltham.
Multiple wildland-urban interface fires destroyed structures United Kingdom
Multiple wildland-urban interface fires destroyed structures in the UK July 19, 2022. Sky News.

Other wildfires are also occurring in the UK.

Hundreds of deaths have been attributed to the heat in Spain and Portugal since last week, and wildfires have forced tens of thousands of people out of their homes there, as well as in France.

In Spain a man who was building a fireline with an excavator abandoned the equipment as it was overrun by fire. He fled through a field with his clothes on fire and was transported to a hospital.

In southwestern France, wildfires have destroyed at least 19,000 hectares (47,000 acres) as temperatures rose to 108.8 degrees (42.7 Celsius) Monday, when dozens of locations set all-time highs. Conditions eased Tuesday when  a cool oceanic air mass arrived overnight.

In the United States night time temperatures are rising, which can affect fuel moisture, fuel temperature, and lower than average minimum relative humidity, all resulting in higher wildland fire danger. It also appears to be happening in Europe, at least recently.

From the Washington Post:

The United Kingdom not only posted its highest maximum daytime temperatures on record, but also its maximum overnight temperatures — with some locations not dipping below the upper 70s (25 to 26 Celsius). The lack of nighttime cooling was of grave concern to health officials as only a tiny percentage of British homes have air-conditioning.

By Wednesday, the core of the heat is forecast to focus over central and eastern Germany, Poland and southern Scandinavia as the heat dome is nudged eastward.

From Friday into the weekend, a new heat dome will build over southern Europe with extremely high temperatures over Spain, France and Italy, which have already endured multiple bouts of punishing heat this summer.

Multiple wildland-urban interface fires destroyed structures United Kingdom
Multiple wildland-urban interface fires destroyed structures in the UK July 19, 2022. Sky News.
Multiple wildland-urban interface fires destroyed structures United Kingdom
A farmer uses spray equipment to check the spread of a grass fire in the UK July 19, 2022. Sky News.
Multiple wildland-urban interface fires destroyed structures United Kingdom
Multiple wildland-urban interface fires destroyed structures in the UK July 19, 2022. Sky News.
Heat Sources detected in Europe fires wildfires
Heat Sources detected in Europe by satellites, for the 7-day period ending July 19, 2022.

Hot dry weather leads to numerous wildfires in Europe

Weather forecast, Europe, for July 18, 2022
Weather forecast, Europe, for July 18, 2022. WeatherOnlne. For reference, 40C is 104F, and 35C is 95F.

As Western Europe enters its second heat wave in the last 30 days the maximum temperatures are predicted to set records. Residents in the United Kingdom could experience conditions none of them have ever seen as the temperature rises to 104F degrees (40C) or more, prompting officials to issue the first ever red “extreme heat” warning for Monday and Tuesday.

Farther south in Europe, in southwest France on Saturday there were temperature peaks of close to 108F (42C), as the city of Biarritz broke a maximum temperature record. Nearly three-quarters of the country’s population, 45 million people, were affected by red or orange heat alerts in what is the earliest heat wave ever recorded in France.

The hot, dry weather has resulted in numerous wildfires in Britain, Spain, Portugal, and France over the last several days, bringing an earlier than usual start of the fire season. Firefighters in London, yes, London, have dealt with more than 800 vegetation fires since the start of last month to July 12.

wildfire in the Bordeaux region of southwest France
Firefighters work on a wildfire in the Bordeaux region of southwest France. AP.

Two blazes near the coastal town of Arcachon in France’s southwest Gironde region have burned more than 24,000 acres since Tuesday. About 3,000 firefighters assisted by firefighting aircraft are battling the blazes in southern France.

On Friday a pilot was killed while working on a fire in Northeast Portugal when an Air Tractor AT-802AF Fire Boss went down near the town of Torre de Moncorvo after scooping water on the Douro river.

Spain is also working on several large fires that have burned tens of thousands of acres. In southern Andalusia, 3,000 people were evacuated after a fire started near the village of Mijas in the province of Malaga. Around 200 firefighters supported by 18 aircraft are assigned to the incident.

European heat wave
BBC weather forecaster Ben Rich.

BBC weather forecaster Ben Rich explained that the current heat wave is caused by the jet stream shifting north and a portion of it breaking off to form a low pressure area west of Portugal, a cutoff low, with south winds pumping heat north into Western Europe including Spain, France and the UK.

Combined drought indicator Europe
Combined drought indicator last 10 days in June, 2022. European Commission’s Drought Observatory..

Much of Western Europe and the southern UK are in drought ranging from warning to alert levels, according to the European Commission’s Drought Observatory. The dry soils allow more surface heating and the result is record-setting temperatures and lower than average moisture in the vegetation, establishing conditions that are conducive to large wildfires with high resistance to control.

The video below is a summary of current wildfires in Western Europe.

France will be ordering Q400’s to replace their S-2 air tankers

Above: Bombardier Q400MR — Bombardier Photo.

This article first appeared on Fire Aviation.

(Originally published at 3:52 p.m. MDT July 29, 2017.)

France’s Securite Civile (Department of Civil Defence and Emergency Preparedness) is replacing their ageing turbine-powered S-2 air tankers with Bombardier Q400-MR’s. The bids for the contract were advertised in 2016 and this week Gérard Collomb, Minister of the Interior, announced that they will place an order for six of the Multi-role aircraft that can carry up to 2,600 US gallons of water or retardant.

For several years Securite Civile has been pondering what to do about replacing their S-2’s that are approaching their structural life limit of 25,000 hours, according to the agency. Their plans announced last year were to retire the nine S-2’s between 2018 and 2022 which would require a two-year extension of the type certificate. The goal was to acquire aircraft that could carry more water or retardant, would reduce operating costs, and would be multi-role. The Q400 MR (the MR stands for “Multi-Role) can haul cargo or passengers in addition to operating in the firefighting realm.

Q400MR Bombardier
Bombardier Q400MR dropping retardant. Bombardier photo.

France considered the CL-415 water-scooping amphibious tanker formerly made by Bombardier, but it is no longer in production with the program being sold to Viking Air Limited in 2016. Viking is considering manufacturing them again, but for now they are providing service and support for the CL-215’s and CL-415’s operating around the world.

Securite Civile has operated two Q-400 air tankers since 2005, so retiring the S-2’s and acquiring more Q-400’s will reduce the complexity of the maintenance and operation of their fleet.

In addition to the 9 S-2’s and 2 Q-400’s, France also has 11 or 12 CL-415’s and 40 helicopters.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Isaac.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Large fires hit areas in Portugal and France

Above: Satellite photo showing smoke created by a fire in France, July 26, 2017. The red dots represent heat.

(Originally published at 8 p.m. MDT [UTC -6] July 26, 2017)
(Revised at 9:36 a.m. MDT July 27, 2017)

Wildfires in France and Portugal are disrupting the lives of thousands of residents and tourists. Each country has multiple large fires, but one of the largest in France is near the Mediterranean coast 77 km (48 miles) east of Marseille between La Londe-les-Maures and Le Lavandou and has forced the evacuation of about 12,000 people.

Mistral winds spread the fires quickly causing 60 people to be evacuated by boat while others spent the night in gyms, public places, or on the beach.

There was also a 2,000-hectare  (4,950-acre) fire on the French island of Corsica.

More than 1,000 firefighters are working on wildfires throughout the country.

fire in Portugal satellite photo
Satellite photo of smoke created by a fire in Portugal, July 26, 2017. The red dots represent heat. Click to enlarge.

Portugal is also struggling to contain a group of fires about 152 km (94 miles) northeast of Lisbon. It was just five weeks ago that a wildfire southeast of Coimbra, Portugal killed at least 62 people, most of whom were attempting to escape in their vehicles. Those fires were about 63 km northwest of the current blazes that are south of Perdigao burning in dense pine and in some cases non-native eucalyptus plantations. Many areas around the world grow eucalyptus in order to harvest the wood, leaves, and oil to make paper and medicine. But wildfires burn rapidly under them and through the tree crowns. Earlier this year we took this photo after a fire in Chile spread through a plantation.

wildfire eucalyptus plantation
The aftermath of a wildfire that burned through a eucalyptus plantation in Chile, February 2, 2017.

About 2,000 firefighters with 700 vehicles are battling wildfires around Portugal.  As in France, the fires are being pushed by strong winds.

Portugal’s fire season usually begins after July 1 but it got an early start this year.