Europe’s wildfire threat eases but blaze grows in Slovenia

MADRID (AP) — Europe’s spate of fierce wildfires abated somewhat Thursday amid cooler temperatures, with French firefighters starting to get the upper hand over two major blazes, Spain taming a fire that killed two people and no new outbreaks reported in Portugal.

But a fire in Slovenia on the border with Italy kicked up strongly Thursday, forcing the evacuation of three villages.

Spanish firefighters were tackling nine blazes, with two said to be especially dangerous in the northwestern Galicia region. Some of the 11,000 people evacuated because of the fires in Spain began returning home, and a major highway in the northwestern Zamora province reopened after two days.

Temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and a drought have worsened Spain’s wildfires this year. Thursday’s highest temperature in Spain was forecast to be 32 C (90 F).

In France, more than a week of round-the-clock battling against ferocious flames by more than 2,000 firefighters and up to 10 water-dropping planes was slowly winning out against two major wildfires in the tinder-dry pine forests in southwestern France.

The Gironde region’s fire service said both blazes, which had forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people, were contained.

Although firefighters in France were still tamping down hot spots that could reignite blazes, the fire service said it expects to have tamed the fires’ embers within days. Officials said they will probably be able to declare the fires completely extinguished within weeks.

Officials in Slovenia, meanwhile, said the raging blaze in the southwestern Kras region was the biggest since the country became an independent nation in 1991.

“The fire is nowhere near its end,” Srecko Sestan, head of Slovenia’s civil protection service, told the official STA news agency.

The fire has engulfed 2,000 hectares (nearly 5,000 acres) and set off unexploded ordnance left over from World War I. More than 1,000 firefighters have been fighting the blaze, aided by the Slovenian army and police, as well as helicopters from Austria, Slovakia and Croatia.

In Bosnia, a days-long fire in the southern Blidinje nature park prompted authorities to declare a natural disaster because of the danger it posed to a protected conservation area.

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