“Sustained winds (…) pushed the firefighters to work hard all night. The head of fire was quite active on the north-eastern front, with 300 hectares consumed overnight,” said the sub-prefect of Lesparre-Médoc, Fabrice Thibier, during a press conference.
In total, 3,620 hectares have been covered by the flames, in addition to some 30,000 already burned this summer by three gigantic fires in the department, in La Teste-de-Buch and Landiras twice.
“We still have a very severe drought at the level of the forest massif”, underlined for his part the departmental director of the emergency services, Marc Vermeulen. And the wind has changed direction – coming from the south until now, it is now blowing from the west. “Which is never good news: we will be very vigilant,” he added.
During the day, the air resources will be reinforced with six Canadair in rotation – instead of three the day before – three Dash and two water bomber helicopters, in support of the 1,000 firefighters mobilized on the ground, from several regions.
Shortly before noon, small gusts of wind swept the area under a brilliant blue sky. The rain could help fight the fire but it is not announced before the weekend: “that’s why I asked for the reinforcement of all the operational units until Sunday”, explained Mr. Vermeulen, reporting “a few light injuries” among his troops.
For his part, the spokesperson for the National Federation of Firefighters of France, Éric Brocardi, expressed “a little optimism” Wednesday morning on franceinfo, while calling for a reinforcement and a better distribution of resources in the face of the increase in claims.
“Until now, all air resources and land resources, such as forest fire tankers, were mainly the armament of the south of France and made it possible to radiate around the Mediterranean. Today we must do facing the whole territory”, he said to a week of the national congress of firefighters in Nancy.
– Privileged criminal track –
The Saumos fire did little material damage but 840 people had to be evacuated on Monday and Tuesday in this area of southern Médoc, between the seaside resort of Lacanau, on the Atlantic coast, and the Bordeaux conurbation.
“Most were welcomed into their families in other towns, with friends, in local lodges, Lionel Montillaud, mayor of Sainte-Hélène, a neighboring town, explained on Tuesday.
Faced with the continuing fire, residents came to lend a hand to the firefighters. “You have to be able to control it, even with a shovel or a shoe. We always manage to do something,” a young lumberjack told AFP on Tuesday.
A judicial inquiry has been opened into the origin of the fire. “No track is ruled out even if the criminal thesis is privileged”, according to the Bordeaux prosecutor’s office. “An investigation team is on site. All options are on the table. We must be careful about the rumors that run around,” said the sub-prefect for his part.
At the end of August, a 19-year-old student, a volunteer firefighter in Gironde, was indicted and imprisoned for “destruction by fire”, suspected of 31 fire starts in the north of Médoc.
This new blaze occurred in a context of high heat, with a monthly record recorded Monday in Bordeaux (37.5 degrees), unheard of in September since 1987 according to Météo-France.
It brings back sad memories to the inhabitants: a gigantic fire (3,500 hectares) had already ravaged the sector in July 1989, between Lacanau and Le Porge.