More than 1,000 firefighters are battling a “monster” wildfire in southwestern France near Bordeaux that has already destroyed about 7,400 hectares of forest, threatening the country’s famous wine growing region.
This is the second time that the region was hit by disastrous wildfires after a blaze just raged through the region just last month.
The blaze about 30km southeast of the famous French wine region has already forced 10,000 residents to evacuate, according to a report by BBC citing local officials and firefighters. France has been battling with wildfires since June due to unusual heatwaves and what the country calls “worst drought on record”.
“It’s an ogre, it’s a monster,” firefighter representative Gregory Allione told France’s RTL Radio.
The latest flareup is worsen by the third heatwave and dry air, while authorities is also investigating the possibility of arson.
The area most affected is Gironde, a southwestern coastal region near Bordeaux, where wildfires have devastated over 7,000 hectares of forest and forced the evacuation of 10,000 people from their homes.
This is also second time that the area has been set on blaze after wildfires burned 14,000 hectares before being contained in July. One of the fires was close to Landiras-based Liber Pater vineyard, which makes one of the world’s most expensive wines and it triggered forced winery evacuation.
Fear of Smoke Taint
Even though the fires have yet to reach Bordeaux’s famous vineyards, fears of smoke taint from fires even miles away could ruin a vintage and reduce yields.
Speaking of the last two fires this summer – one in Arcachon basin and another near the Graves region, Bordeaux Wine Council (CIVB), the wine trade body representing Bordeaux winegrowers and vignerons, said worries about smoke taint is premature.
“During the period of the fires, there was a lot of wind. This was very unfavorable to the fires, but these winds chased away the smoke that was being released around the vines. Moreover, the vines are still at a very early stage of vegetation (before veraison), so the winegrowers are not afraid of the ‘taste of smoke’,” the association replied to Vino Joy News when asked about the wildfires.
However, the association admitted staff at wineries are affected due to forced evacuation. “The Bordeaux industry was affected because some employees of the vineyards had to leave their homes which were in the burned area. They are gradually returning to their homes and some are discovering that their environment is charred. We will have to wait a few months to see the real degree of damage to the vegetation. The CIVB sends its support and sympathy to all these employees,” adds the association.
Wildfires in EU
The worsening situation in France prompted help from Germany, Greece, Poland, Romania and Austria. The EU countries have responded with help and will participate in firefighting efforts. France has already mobilized 10,000 French firefighters and other civilian forces, French President Emmanual Macron announced.
Last month, to the north of Bordeaux, close to another wine region, Loire River, a wildfire has burned through more than 1,200 hectares in the Pugle forest, according to local authorities. Firefighters were also battling a blaze in the Aveyron region of southern France.
Not just in France, this summer a number of other wine growing regions in Europe are hit by deadly wildfires triggered by record high temperatures and drought.
All over Europe, temperatures in wine regions have been sweltering at new highs, and heat waves are moving north into such normally cool countries as Germany.
Spain has lost 80,000 hectares of land to wildfires in June and July. In Portugal, fires in Serra de Estrela park in central Portugal have destroyed 10,000 hectares of forest.