France has been buffeted this summer by a historic drought as well as a series of heatwaves and several forest fires.
A fire that had been raging since Monday in the southern Aveyron region appeared to be under control and dying out on Saturday afternoon when it suddenly reignited in a “virulent” manner, gobbling up 500 more hectares (1,235 acres), the prefecture said.
At least 1,000 people were evacuated from the village of Mostuejols near the city of Millau and six nearby hamlets, it said.
Around 3,000 people had already been evacuated because of the fire, but were allowed back when it appeared under control. No casualties have been reported so far from the blaze, which has consumed a total of 1,260 hectares so far.
A local man was under investigation for accidentally starting the fire when a metal part of his trailer touched the road, sending off sparks that ignited the dried vegetation.
To limit such risks in eastern France, police said on Saturday they were banning entry to all but residents in most forests in the Bas-Rhin region near the German border.
Meanwhile in the southwestern Gironde region around Bordeaux, a huge fire that had flared on Tuesday was under control after rain fell overnight, a senior official said.
“The night was favourable to us, since as you know, we had rain and very little wind…. The fire is now contained,” Ronan Leaustic, deputy prefect of Arcachon commune, told reporters on Sunday.
He added that 8,000 residents forced to evacuate could now return home.
There was further relief after a fire in the eastern department of Jura that destroyed over 1,000 hecatres was brought under control.
Lower temperatures, rain forecast
Arnaud Mendousse, of Gironde fire and rescue, said earlier there had been between 10 and 30 mm of rain in the region but on “terrain that is extremely dry”.
“We know that this offers a respite but does not signify an end to the fight. We know that if it does not rain in the next 48 to 72 hours the risk will increase considerably.”
He said the humidity level has gone up and the temperature was relatively low at around 25 degrees Celsius, (77 degrees Fahrenheit) but warned: “The fire is not completely out and the soil remains extremely hot.”
Météo-France was forecasting lower temperatures and rain and thunderstorms for most of the country on Sunday.
In the northwest, in the legendary Broceliande forest in region of Brittany — where King Arthur roamed and where wildfires are normally rare — a fire was contained after rain fell overnight, but remained under watch after devastating 400 hectares, officials said.
EU members including Germany, Poland, Austria and Romania have sent reinforcement to France to help battle blazes and several water-bombing planes from the European Union fleet have also joined firefighting efforts.