Thousands evacuated near Bordeaux as wildfires ravage French countryside

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Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes in southwest France on Wednesday, in a region known for its pine forests that was ravaged by flames only last month. 

The blaze near the city of Bordeaux forced the evacuation of about 6,000 people and destroyed at least sixteen houses. A major highway was closed on Wednesday afternoon due to the proximity of the wildfire.

Photos released by firefighters showed flames raging through pine forests, sending clouds of dark gray smoke soaring into the sky.

More than 60 square kilometers has burned in the Gironde region and the neighboring Landes in the latest wildfire to erupt in a European nation as the continent swelters through a hot and dry summer.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin announced that more firefighters have been sent to the site in an effort to contain the fire. In total, more than 1,000 firefighters, nine aircraft and two helicopters have been mobilized, he said.

Darmanin said that he had “great suspicions” that the fire “is the work of arsonists.” 

“This morning, there were eight fires, between 8 am and 9 am, which started a few hundred meters apart, which is quite unusual,” said the minister.

The Gironde region was hit last month by major wildfires that forced the evacuation of more than 39,000 people, including residents and tourists.

France is this week in the midst of its fourth heat wave of the year as the country faces what the government warned is its worst drought on record.

Temperatures in the south of the country are expected to reach up to 40 degrees Celsius again on Wednesday.