Hundreds of firefighters battle blaze in southern France’s Gard region

More than 900 firefighters backed by aircraft have been deployed to battle a blaze in France’s southern Gard region that burned 600 hectares.

“This fire is far from being done, there are fronts in hard-to-reach areas that we haven’t tackled and that are advancing freely,” Eric Agrinier, a senior member of the fire service, said on Friday. “It’s going to be a feat of endurance.”

Working into the night after the blaze began on Thursday night, firefighters set backfires to protect inhabited areas.

“We burn some parts (of the forest) so when the fire spreads it reaches an already-burned zone and slows down, that makes it easier to stop its advance,” said Jacques Pages, standing in front of a line of flames lighting up the pitch-black forest.

Described by emergency responders as a “mega-fire”, the blaze started near the village of Bordezac and forced evacuations from nearby Besseges and other settlements on Thursday night.

The local prefect’s office said about 100 people had to be put up in holiday homes and restaurants in the area, which is about 90km north of Montpellier and the Mediterranean coast.

Large swaths of the country, southeast France has suffered from drought this year, increasing the risk of fires.

During an unseasonable heatwave last month, about 600 hectares were burned in a fire started by shelling on an army artillery training range near the Mediterranean port city, Marseille.