LISBON, Portugal —
A spate of wildfires is scorching parts of Europe, with firefighters battling blazes in Portugal, Spain and southern France on Wednesday amid an unusual heat wave that is being linked to climate change.
In Portugal, Civil Protection commander André Fernandes said that multiple fires have caused the evacuation of more than 600 people. About 120 people needed medical treatment, with two people — one civilian and one firefighter — suffering serious injuries, Fernandes said.
Water-dumping planes helped 1,300 firefighters combat the worst of the blazes in the nation’s interior, while another 1,000 worked to bring other fires under control.
The European heat wave is also sparking flames in Spain and France — and in Turkey at the other end of the Mediterranean.
More than 800 firefighters battled two wildfires outside Bordeaux in southwest France, according to the regional emergency service. The fires began Tuesday near the towns of Landiras and La Teste-de-Buch, and were still burning Wednesday morning.
About 6,500 people have been evacuated from campgrounds and villages in the forested area. The number of injuries is unclear. The two fires have destroyed more than 4,400 acres of terrain, the emergency service said.
Images from firefighters showed wind-whipped flames racing through thickets of trees and grassland and smoke blackening the horizon.
The regional administration banned activity in forested areas at risk. Several regions in southern France are on fire alert because of hot, dry weather and high winds. Wildfires swept through the Gard region in southeast France last week.
Portugal has a history of fatal forest fires. In 2017, wildfires killed more than 100 people. No one has died from a wildfire since then as Portugal improved its forest management and firefighting strategies.
Last year, Portugal recorded its lowest number of wildfires since 2011. But a mass of hot and dry air blown in by African winds are driving temperatures in the Iberian Peninsula beyond their usual highs.
The Atlantic country, which has been on alert for wildfires since last week, is sweltering under a spike in temperatures that are forecast to reach 115 degrees in the central Alentejo region on Wednesday and Thursday. Authorities said 96% of the country was classified at the end of June as being in either “extreme” or “severe” drought.
More than 7,400 acres had been consumed just in the district of Leiria, north of Lisbon, Mayor Goncalo Lopes told Portuguese state broadcaster RTP.
Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa, who canceled a trip abroad to deal with the emergency, said that better care of woodlands and abandoned farmland was key to protecting them.
“In 2017 the country realized that having enough firefighters is essential, but it is not enough,” Costa said. “We have to get to the root of the problem … The abandonment of property and its non-management is one of the biggest risk factors for forest fires.”
Neighboring Spain hit highs of 109 degrees in several southern cities on Tuesday.
Over 400 people were evacuated on Tuesday because of a wildfire that has consumed 8,600 acres in western Spain.
European Union officials issued a warning last week that climate change is behind the extremely dry and hot summer so far on the continent, urging local authorities to brace for wildfires.
Cayetano Torres, spokesman for Spain’s national weather forecaster, said that the “unusual” heat wave and lack of rainfall in recent months has created ideal circumstances for fires.
“These are perfect conditions for the propagation of fires, which, when you add to that some wind, you have have guaranteed propagation,” he said.
In southwestern Turkey, a blaze that erupted near the Aegean Sea resort of Datca was moving toward some homes in the area, according to the provincial governor’s office. It said at least nine water-dropping helicopters and five planes were deployed to battle the fire.
Last summer, blazes that were fed by strong winds and scorching temperatures tore through forests in Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean regions. The wildfires, which killed at least eight people and countless animals, were described as the worst in Turkey’s history.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government came under criticism for its inadequate response and preparedness to fight large-scale wildfires, including a lack of modern firefighting planes.