With fires raging in Europe, France arrests man over fire

With fires raging in Europe, France arrests man over fire

LA TESTE-DE-BUCH, France (AP) – Investigators investigating the suspected deliberate ignition of what has become a raging forest fire in southwestern France arrested a man for questioning as firefighters and water bombers on Tuesday battled fierce flames there and in other countries. parts of Europe that have baked in extreme heat.

Smoke from a large forest fire blown by strong winds blackened the silhouette in the Greek capital on Tuesday. Firefighters hovered over the flames and water fell on the slopes of Mount Penteli, 25 kilometers northeast of the city. Officials ordered hundreds of people to evacuate their homes.

Forest fires also kept emergency crews busy in England, Germany, Portugal and Spain.

In the Gironde region of southwestern France, two massive fires from pine-dry pine forests have also forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes and summer resorts since breaking out on July 12.

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One of the fires, which broke through forest areas south of Bordeaux, is suspected to have been started on purpose. A motorist told investigators that before he stopped and tried to extinguish the flames without success, he saw a vehicle speeding away from the place where the fire started, Bordeaux prosecutors said.

Criminal investigators found evidence of possible arson, prosecutors said.

The 39-year-old man who will be questioned on Tuesday lives in Gironde and was remanded in custody on Monday afternoon, the office states. He was also questioned in 2012, suspected of having started a forest fire, but the investigation was shelved in 2014 due to lack of evidence, the prosecution added.

Ten water bombers and more than 2,000 firefighters worked day and night to contain the blaze and another wildfire southwest of Bordeaux that police investigators treated as accidental. The fires have burned through more than 190 square kilometers (more than 70 square kilometers) of forest and vegetation, the authorities in Gironde said.

Thick clouds of smoke and the danger of flames spreading to buildings have forced the evacuation of more than 39,000 people, including 16,000 on Monday, authorities said. A minor third fire broke out late Monday in the Medoc wine region north of Bordeaux, further straining regional fire-fighting resources.

Whirling winds and extreme heat have complicated firefighting. Record highs eased along France’s Atlantic coast on Tuesday while other parts of the country and the continent continued to freeze.

In Paris, the thermometer peaked in the French capital’s oldest weather station – opened in 1873 – 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for only the third time. 40.5 C (104.9 F) measured where Tuesday by the weather service Meteo-France was the monitoring station’s second highest reading ever, only topped by blister 42.6 C (108.7 F) in July 2019.

The first time the station peaked at 40 C – hit 40.4 C (104.7 F) – was in July 1947, Meteo France said. After a gap of 72 years, the station has now twice passed 40 C in just three years.

The people who were evacuated on Monday included 74 residents in a retirement home, authorities said. Another 80 residents in nursing homes were among 2,000 people who were evacuated Tuesday from the last of more than half a dozen towns and villages ordered to evacuate, authorities said.

As flames approach, the emergency evacuation of 363 animals from a zoo in the maritime pool in Arcachon, southwest of Bordeaux, also forced on Monday, the government’s ecological transition ministry said on Tuesday. About 10 animals died of heat and stress, the ministry said.

Five campsites also went up in flames in this area, which is known for its oysters and beach resorts, the Gironde authorities said.

The double blow of heat waves and droughts exacerbated by climate change makes forest fires more frequent, destructive and more difficult to fight. In Spain, the prime minister has linked forest fires that have killed two people to global warming, saying on Monday that “climate change is killing”.

The head of Spain’s civil protection and emergency aid agency, Leonardo Marcos González, noted on Tuesday that extreme heat and forest fires had hit the country three weeks earlier than usual this year, and that many fires broke out at the same time.

“We are in the midst of the most significant civil protection emergency recorded,” he told SER radio station.

On a charred landscape near Barcelona, ​​Ricardo Serra and Julia Garrido returned to the wreckage of their home on Tuesday. They had renovated it for Garrido’s son’s upcoming wedding.

“Everything is burned,” she said. “All our wedding clothes.”

In Portugal, cooling temperatures have eased the pressure on emergency crews, with only two major forest fires tackled by around 800 firefighters on Tuesday. But more burning weather has been forecast for Wednesday.

Authorities suspect a forest fire was to blame for the deaths of a couple in their 80s whose car drove off the road and overturned in a northern Portuguese village late Monday. Their charred vehicle with two bodies inside was found after a fire engulfed the area. Officials suspect the couple died while trying to escape the flames.

The pilot of a water-dumping plane also died in Portugal last week when his plane crashed while fighting a forest fire.

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Leicester reported from Le Pecq, France. Associated Press journalists Derek Gatopoulos in Athens, Barry Hatton in Lisbon, Emilio Morenatti in Barcelona and Raquel Redondo in Madrid contributed. Jade Le Deley also contributed from Paris.

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Follow AP’s climate coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment

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