Lake Garda water level plummets as fires burn across Europe

The drought and soaring temperatures may have led to severe heat and fire warnings in Europe, but they are also still reeling from the drastic effects of extreme weather, Martha Fairlie reports

Firefighters from across Europe arrived in France to help battle several wildfires, including a giant blaze ravaging pine forests in the south-west.

A series of heat waves have compounded a critical drought in much of Europe to create prime wildfire conditions.

The heat has been so intense across Europe that the water level at Lake Garda in Italy has dropped to reveal rocks emerging around the Sirmione Peninsula

Portugal had pine forests burning for a seventh day on Friday, while swathes of England declared a drought.

The firefighters’ brigade from France's Gironde region said the spread of the forest fire was limited overnight due to little wind, but conditions for containing the blaze remained “unfavourable” due to hot, dry weather.

Wildfire burning near Saint-Magne, south of Bordeaux. Credit: AP

The fire in the Gironde region and neighbouring Landes has burned more than 74 square kilometres since Tuesday and led to the evacuation of at least 10,000 people.

More than 360 firefighters and 100 specialised land vehicles were sent from Germany, Romania, Poland and Austria.

They are joining more than 1,000 French firefighters already on site. Greece sent two specialised Canadair aircraft.

Sweden deployed two firefighting Air Tractor planes to help battle a different wildfire in the Brittany region of western France that burned a patch of Paimpont Forest, which is also known as Brocéliande from the mythical events described in the medieval legend of King Arthur.

Firefighters tackling a wildfire near Saint-Magne, south of Bordeaux, southwestern France. Credit: AP

More than than 600 square kilometres of forest land has burned since the start of the year in France, more than any other year in the past decade, according to the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS).

The European Union's Earth-monitoring Copernicus program said satellite observations showed estimated carbon emissions from wildfires in France during June, July and August were the highest since 2003, reflecting the severity of this year’s fire season.

In Portugal, more than 1,600 firefighters, 500 vehicles and 17 aircraft fought the week-old wildfire that has charred around 10 square kilometres.

Much of the burned land is the Serra da Estrela National Park, a protected nature area and UNESCO World Heritage Site that is thinly populated.

The burning areas are hard for firefighters on the ground to reach due to high peaks and deep ravines, but two of the country’s three Canadair water-dumping aircraft have been unavailable on some recent days for mechanical reasons.

Portuguese prime minister Antonio Costa said only one water-dropping plane from Spain was available to help out because other Spanish planes were deployed to France under the European Union's mutual aid system.

“Contrary to how things used to be when wildfires were mostly in southern Europe, unfortunately, they are now more widespread,” Mr Costa said, describing the EU's emergency cooperation mechanism as fully stretched.

In central Germany, near Schierke, hundreds of emergency personnel fought a major forest fire central in Harz National Park, German news agency dpa reported.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know