The firefighters will be able – for a little – to breathe. The situation improved significantly on Thursday on the fire front in France, Portugal and Spain, as a major fire settled in the northeast of the country. In France, the fires that destroyed 20,800 hectares of forest in the Gironde (southwest) for 10 days and led to the evacuation of more than 36,000 people have not progressed, and firefighters are still dealing with a small number of fire resumptions, local authorities indicated.
The day before, nearly 2,000 firefighters were able to stem the spread of the disease thanks to more favorable weather, with lower temperatures and more humid air. The county said about 6,000 residents of the nearly 36,750 evacuees were allowed to return to their homes on Thursday.
The regional government said on Twitter that the Attica fire in Aragon (northeast of the country) had developed “very positively” in Spain in the afternoon. This fire, which broke out on Monday, covers an area of 14,000 hectares and has led to the evacuation of 1,700 people, who now have the right to return to their homes. “The situation is now stable, but this does not mean that it is extinct,” Joaquín Olona, the regional adviser in charge of the environment, stressed, calling for “caution.”
The section of the A2 motorway, linking Madrid to Barcelona, which had to be cut due to fire, reopened to traffic on Thursday morning.
improvement in Portugal
The region of Castile and Leon said that the fire that broke out in the province of Zamora (northwest), which killed a firefighter and a shepherd on Sunday and Monday, was brought under control and six thousand affected residents were able to return to their homes.
A devastating wave of fires has engulfed the Iberian Peninsula in recent days, favored by a heat wave that lasted from July 9-18. This may be the most recorded in Spain, according to provisional data from the Spanish Meteorological Agency (Aemet).
Portugal also saw a period of calm on Thursday. “We have passed the most important stage,” Interior Minister Jose Luis Carneiro told public television, RTP.
“Everything seems to point to an improvement in the coming days,” he added.
The burning area is already larger than the area of all of 2021
In addition, in Eastern Europe, in Slovenia, a thousand firefighters continued to fight a fire that on Thursday evening burned more than 2,000 hectares and caused the temporary evacuation of hundreds of residents. It is the biggest fire since this small country gained independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991.
The wildfires that have raged in Europe in recent weeks have already affected a larger area than during the whole of 2021, according to the European Specialized Monitoring Service. In the 27 countries of the European Union, a total of 517,881 hectares have been destroyed since the beginning of the year (figures from July 16).
Nearly 40 thousand hectares were burned in France during this period, compared to just over 30 thousand hectares for the whole of 2021, more than 190 thousand hectares in Spain, compared to about 85 thousand hectares in 2021, and more than 46 thousand hectares in Portugal Compared to more than 25,000 hectares in 2021.