HOSTENS, FRANCE: A huge fire that has devastated swathes of southwestern France was largely contained, but firefighters face another “complicated” day, local authorities said on Friday. The 40-kilometre (25-mile) active fire front in the Gironde and Landes departments around Bordeaux “has not developed, but the weather conditions are pushing us towards extreme vigilance,” deputy prefect Ronan Leaustic told reporters. No new evacuations had been ordered on top of the 10,000 people already asked to leave, he added. But “today is likely to be complicated, since temperatures continue to rise and the water table keeps falling,” Leaustic said. The roughly 1,100 French firefighters on the ground were reinforced on Thursday by 361 comrades drawn from European neighbours including Germany, Poland, Austria and Romania, along with several water-bombing planes from the European Union fleet. In the hard-hit area around the village of Hostens, the thick smoke seen on Thursday had given way by Friday morning to blue skies and occasional clouds, an AFP journalist saw. France has been buffeted this summer by the historic drought that has forced water use restrictions nationwide, as well as a series of heatwaves that experts say are being driven by climate change. The blaze near Bordeaux erupted in July — the driest month seen in France since 1961 — destroying 14,000 hectares and forcing thousands of people to evacuate before it was contained. But it continued to smoulder in the tinder-dry pine forests and peat-rich soil. Officials suspect arson may have played a role in the latest flare-up, which has burned 7,400 hectares (18,000 acres) since Tuesday.
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