-- Thousands of firefighters in southern France are battling raging wildfires that have forced residents from their homes in recent days and threatened the city of Marseille, officials said.
France’s national federation of firefighters, FNSPF, said it deployed an additional 700 firefighters today, bringing the total count to 2,500, in the regions of Bouches-du-Rhône, Pyrenees-Orientales, Hérault, Gard and Aude.
At least four firefighters were wounded – three seriously -- when flames engulfed their vehicle in Hérault Wednesday, according to France’s interior ministry, which described the wildfires as “very virulent.”
The wildfires have scorched more than 8,150 acres in Bouches-du-Rhône alone, with the flames encroaching on Marseille’s northern gates, the interior ministry said.
“The conditions are very difficult. The goal is to contain the fire to avoid them reaching towns, notably #Marseille,” the ministry tweeted Wednesday.
In the town of Vitrolles, about 15 miles north of Marseille, hundreds of residents were evacuated Wednesday as homes were destroyed by wind-whipped fires. Several centers were set up for evacuated citizens around the town, according to local officials.
The Vitrolles mayor’s office said today the wildfire there is now “generally controlled,” but urged the public to remain vigilant, with winds still high.
Charles-Henri Garrier, head of the Marseille firefighters battalion, told The Associated Press the nearby forest fire was "not expanding anymore and there are no visible flames," but warned locals not to walk on ash and embers because that, with the wind, could revive the blaze.
France's interior ministry today said a fire is ongoing in the Pyrenees-Orientales region, about 200 miles southwest of Bouches-du-Rhône.
The main fire is believed to have started in the Rognac area in Bouches-du-Rhône and spread southward to the other communes of Vitrolles, Les Pennes-Mirabeau and Cabries.
Two civilians have been reported injured, one seriously, and about 35 homes have been burned by the fires in the area of Vitrolles, Les Pennes-Mirabeau and Rognac, firefighters told AP.