French investigators have detained a man for questioning over suspected deliberate lighting that sparked a raging blaze in the country’s southwest, as firefighters and water-bombing planes continue to battle the raging blaze.
Two massive fires feeding on tinder-dry pine forests in the Gironde region have forced thousands of people to flee their homes and summer vacation spots since they broke out on July 12.
One of the fires, south of Bordeaux, is suspected to have been started deliberately.
A motorist told police he saw a car speeding away from where the fire started on July 12.
The Bordeaux prosecutor’s office said the motorist tried unsuccessfully to put out the fire. Criminal investigators later found evidence pointing to possible arson, it said.
The man was taken into custody for questioning on Monday afternoon.
Water-bombing planes and more than 2,000 firefighters are working around the clock to contain that blaze and another wildfire southwest of Bordeaux that investigators are treating as accidental.
The blaze has already burned more than 70 square miles of forest and vegetation, Gironde authorities said.
Thick clouds of smoke and the risk of fire spreading to buildings forced the evacuation of more than 37,000 people, including 16,000 on Monday alone.
A small third fire broke out in the Medoc wine region north of Bordeaux late Monday, further taxing regional firefighting resources.
Among those evacuated on Monday were 74 residents of a retirement home. Animals have also been evacuated from the zoo.
Fire engulfed five campsites on the Atlantic coast beach area southwest of Bordeaux around the Arcachon sea basin, famous for oysters and resorts.
But Tuesday’s weather forecast offered some comfort, with heatwave temperatures easing along the Atlantic coast and rain expected later in the day.