PARIS – A major wildfire that ravaged pine forests in a tourist-beloved area of southwestern France has stopped expanding after rain fell and firefighters worked Sunday to tame it.
Ronan Léaustic, an official in the Gironde region, said 8,000 evacuated residents have been authorized to come back home.
The fire in the Gironde and Landes regions has burned more than 74 square kilometers (29 square miles) since Tuesday.
Marc Vermeulen, commander of the Gironde fire brigade, said the blaze is not extinguished yet and is still burning underground, where there is a lot of peat. Roads in the area have been reopened to residents only and going into the forest remains forbidden.
More than 360 firefighters arrived in France on Friday from Germany, Romania, Poland and Austria to help battle the fire, joining over 1,000 French firefighters already at the site. Greece and Italy each sent two specialized Canadair aircraft.
A series of heat waves have compounded a critical drought that has hit much of Europe, creating prime wildfire conditions.
The Gironde region was hit last month by giant wildfires that forced the evacuation of more than 39,000 people.
More than 600 square kilometers (232 square miles) of forest has burned so far this year in France, more than any other year in the past decade, according to the European Forest Fire Information System.
The European Union’s Earth-monitoring Copernicus program said satellite observations showed estimated carbon emissions from wildfires in France during June, July and August were the highest since 2003, reflecting the severity of this year’s fire season.
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