“We felt it coming since yesterday (Sunday)”, assures AFP a retired couple who exchange telephone numbers with neighbors before leaving for Arcachon.
In scorching heat, with more than 40°C, and a sky turning gray-yellow, some 8,000 people had to leave – “preventively” according to the prefecture – Miquelots and Pyla-sur-Mer, districts of the commune of Teste-de-Buch, a commune of 28,000 very large and very wooded inhabitants where 4,300 hectares have gone up in smoke.
“These neighborhoods are in the process of being smoked but La Teste is not threatened and there is no risk for the population”, explains to AFP the lieutenant-colonel Arnaud Mendousse, spokesperson for the firefighters. . “The evacuation must allow the firefighters to concentrate on attacking the fire”.
Because along the coast around the Dune du Pilat, from where campsites were evacuated a few days ago, “we hear explosions, these are the gas canisters of campsites and restaurants”, describes a journalist from the AFP on the spot, “there is black smoke coming out of the dune and going towards the ocean”.
In the other sector where the flames have been raging since Tuesday, in Landiras in the south of the Gironde, several thousand people also had to leave their homes behind on Monday, in at least six municipalities. The fire has already devoured 10,500 hectares of forest there.
In La Teste, in the residential district of Miquelots, Patricia Monteil is “in panic”, says this forty-year-old, piling as many things as possible in her car, especially clothes.
“I’m going to my daughter’s (in another district of La Teste) but if it burns there too, I don’t know what to do,” she slips, as ashes begin to flutter in the air. In the distance, the fire sirens sound, in a strong smell of burning.
– “Permanent concern” –
Further on, Anaïs roams the neighborhood looking for her parents’ five cats but has only found one, “I think we’re going to have to leave them here”.
“We took the bare minimum”, say Jean-Claude and Marie-France Estampe, septuagenarians who go to visit friends in Gujan-Mestras, a nearby town.
The mayor of La Teste-de-Buch, Patrick Davet, had to evacuate his house himself, he told AFP. He said he was “worried”, adding “but we’ve been worried for seven days”.
At the city’s racecourse, “the trainers are considering solutions to evacuate the 370 horses present to Le Bouscat, near Bordeaux, or Pau”, explains Céline Bobacher, a manager who describes “a gray sky, very thick fog, like a time of war.
On the ground, facing “outstanding” blazes and in infernal heat, the approximately 1,700 firefighters mobilized in Gironde faced Monday “one of the most difficult days” since the start of their fight against the flames, the 12 July.
“We are facing extreme and exceptional situations. We are going to exceed 40°C on both sites. Each time, around 3-4 p.m. it becomes a powder keg”, warned the departmental director of Sdis 33, Marc Vermeulen.
“We have seen phenomena that foresters have never seen before. The fire literally explodes, linked to the heat and the calorific potential present. The trunks of 40-year-old pines burst,” he describes.
With gusts of rotating winds “up to 60 km / h” and “a humidity level below 10%”, the weather conditions make us fear the worst, despite significant air resources and while the firefighters are putting in place tactical fires creating buffer zones to stop the fire.