Weekend winds threaten to fan deadly forest fires on the French Riviera

Firefighters battling France’s worst summer wildfire said Friday that the blaze had stopped spreading after five days, but that shifting winds over the weekend could make fighting the flames difficult.

“We are expecting risky days,” Florent Dossetti of the Var department fire brigade told AFP.

Firefighters said the fire that killed two people had stopped spreading for the first time since it broke out Monday, but was not extinguished.

They warned that the situation “remains very unstable” in parts of the affected area, with 7,100 hectares of forest already burned.

The flames have passed through the arid nature reserve of Plaine des Maures towards the dazzling Riviera resort of Saint-Tropez.

Around 1,200 firefighters and 250 fire trucks have been deployed to crush the flames along an 80-kilometer front, and firefighting planes and helicopters are also dropping water on the flames.

About 10,000 residents and tourists have been evacuated from the area, with only a fraction able to return to camps Wednesday night, while others remained in emergency accommodations.

The prefecture urged the evacuees “above all to avoid returning to their home or to the place where they were on vacation.”

Beyond the human impact, local rosé wine producers fear an economic blow from the destroyed vines, while an operation to save local protected turtles has been launched in the Maures nature reserve.

Firefighters have asked for information on how the fire started, and current theories suggest it started at a freeway rest stop on Monday.

The blaze is the most recent in the Mediterranean region that has also seen major fires claiming lives in Greece, Turkey, Italy and Algeria in recent weeks, with numerous officials blaming climate change.

The region has long faced seasonal wildfires related to hot, dry summer weather, but climate scientists warn they will become increasingly common due to man-made global warming.

( Jowharwith AFP)

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