France–– GENDARMES have moved in to try to find the cause of a fire that destroyed two houses and around 900 hectares of forest and arable farmlands and forced the evacuation of a campsite.
Around 900 firefighters plus 12 water-bomber aircraft were needed to control what was the summer’s largest forest fire in the south-east, half-way between Avignon and Aix-en-Provence.
The fire, which covered lands in the communes of Orgon, Sénas and Eyguières, was pushed by a strong Mistral wind which was reaching up to 70kph after several days of intense hot weather. The RD569 between Organ and Eyguières was cut by the fire.
Smoke could be seen from several tens of kilometres away and ash was blown as far as Marseille.
Firefighters managed to stop the spread late yesterday afternoon but 700 of them were still on the scene at Orgon in Bouches-du-Rhône, near the border with the Vaucluse, this morning.
Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur prefect Hugues Parant said they fear that the wind will turn around midday and the fire will take off again.
It is not yet known how the fire started, but it was first spotted around midnight on Saturday night near a campsite on a rocky ridge on the edge of the Alpilles.
Halfway through the night rescue crews evacuated 70 people from the campsite but could not save two houses and outbuildings in Sénas from being destroyed. One man was also rescued from his car which was caught in the path of the flames.
The initial 500 firefighters from Vaucluse and Bouches-du-Rhône were reinforced by others from Hérault, Drôme and Alpes-Maritimes along with seven Canadair, two Tracker and one Dash water-bombers, plus two helicopters.
Already this summer more than 650 hectares of forest have been destroyed in a fire at Lacanau, in Gironde, in the south-west.