Former Londoner hopes with 'a bit of luck' fire spares his French home

·1-min read
Wildfires in southwestern France

PARIS (Reuters) - As firefighters battled blazes near France's Bay of Arcachon, Paul Virtue, a former Londoner who moved his family to the region nearly two decades ago to build a new life, was hoping his house would be spared.

"Here we are, 17 years later, on the beach, looking at a fire that is spreading very close to our home in Haut Pilat," said Virtue, 64, speaking to Reuters on an empty beach as plumes of smoke darkened the sky.

"Maybe we just need a little bit of luck," he added.

A heatwave that settled over southern Europe last week has caused dozens of fires in Spain and France, prompting the evacuation of 34,000 people in the Gironde area of southwestern France.

Some 2,000 firefighters supported by water-bombing aircraft were fighting the blazes, which started a week ago and have burned around 19,300 hectares (47,700 acres).

A fire near Arcachon bay has already burned 6,500 hectares

A chic seaside resort on France's Atlantic Coast, Arcachon bay is a popular tourist destination, known for sprawling natural reserves, pine forests and towering sand dunes -- the Pilat dune is Europe's tallest.

Virtue said the firefighters had been working hard for days to protect property, and he hoped the blaze could be contained to the forest and that he could return home within a week.

"Then we can look at the damage and with [local authorities] we can make some changes so that this does not happen again to the people of Arcachon," he said.

(Reporting by Pascal Rossignol and Mimosa Spencer, Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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