Two huge fires, which destroyed 21,000 hectares of forest south of the French city of Bordeaux, have been brought under control after 12 days of relentless struggle by an army of firefighters. Local residents forced to flee the flames have been told they can return home.
At the height of the two montrous wildfires which ravaged forest in the Gironde region south of Bordeaux for the past two weeks, 36,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes or from holiday camp sites.
Monday's announcement confirmed that the Landiras blaze, in which 13,800 hectares of pine forest were destroyed, was now under control, with fire service personnel still working to fully extinguish the fire.
Police believe the Landiras fire was started deliberately. A suspect was briefly questioned but has since been released.
This follows Saturday's statement by firefighters that the inferno which engulfed the Teste-de-Buch forest near the Bay of Arcachon, with the loss of 7,000 hectares of forest, was also under control.
The total area damaged or destroyed by the flames is the equivalent of twice the surface of the city of Paris.
No deaths, handful of injuries
Announcing the news on Monday, the regional police chief said that no human lives had been lost. Twenty-five firemen were injured, none of them seriously. A total of 4,200 firefighters took part in the operation.
A detatchment of 450 is to remain on duty for the several weeks it will take to ensure that neither fire can resume.
Five houses were destroyed, along with a restaurant and a discotheque.
The risk of further blazes remain high, particularly in the Landiras region, where the soil is largely composed of peat, and is highly flammable.
Returning residents have also been warned of the risks posed by the collapse of trees damaged by the flames.
Brittany fires deliberately started
Two separate forest fires that broke out in northwest France last week were caused by arson, prosecutors said Monday, taking to three the total of deliberately started blazes in recent weeks.
The two fires in normally wet and blustery northwest Brittany came during a fierce heatwave that has scorched Europe over the last fortnight.
They are "without doubt of human origin", local prosecutor Carine Halley said, adding that experts had identified the starting points.