French firefighters prepare for blaze contained in southwest

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French firefighters prepare for blaze contained in southwest

HOSTENS, France : French firefighters were keeping a watchful eye on a huge blaze that appeared to be contained in the country's southwest, with thunderstorms and strong wind gusts expected in the area overnight.

The 40 km long fire front in the Gironde and Landes departments around Bordeaux did not progress overnight. Firefighters are working on its periphery police, said in a statement.

But officials said it was premature to say that the blaze, which has already reignited once, was under control.

As we can't see huge flames, the fire continues to consume vegetation and soil, said Arnaud Mendousse, lieutenant colonel of Gironde fire and rescue.

Weather forecasters are expecting to see thunderstorms with wind gusts of up to 60 km an hour in the region in the evening.

Menousse warned that the wind could reignite the fire that is in a state of pause.

EU members, including Germany, Poland, Austria and Romania, have pledged to add 361 firefighters to join the roughly 1,100 French ones on the ground, along with several water-bombing planes from the European Union fleet.

Most of the reinforcements had arrived on the ground, with the last 146 firefighters from Poland expected to arrive later on Saturday. France has been battered this summer by a historic drought that has forced water use restrictions nationwide, as well as a series of heatwaves that experts say are being driven by climate change.

The blaze near Bordeaux erupted in July -- the driest month since 1961 in France - destroying 14,000 hectares and forcing thousands of people to evacuate before it was contained.

It continued to smoulder in the tinder-dry pine forests and peat-rich soil.

The latest flare-up, which has burnt 7,400 hectares since Tuesday, has been suspected by officials of arson.

In France, fires have ravaged an area three times more than the average over the past 10 years, with blazes also active in the Ardeche, Isere and Alpine Jura regions this week.

More carbon dioxide greenhouse gas - over one million tons - had been released from 2022's forest fires in France than any summer since records began in 2003, according to European Copernicus satellite data.