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A blistering heat wave has sparked massive wildfires throughout Europe


Countries across Europe are struggling to control wildfires that, in just a week's time, have displaced thousands of people across France, Spain and Portugal. The continent is also sweltering under a record-breaking heat wave, which experts blame on climate change. Rebecca Rosman reports.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking French).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking French).

REBECCA ROSMAN, BYLINE: Dramatic images on French television show firefighters in the southwestern Gironde region near Bordeaux driving through what looks like an apocalyptic scene - scorched earth, thick clouds of orange smoke and trees quickly swallowed by flames.



ROSMAN: Over the weekend, French President Emmanuel Macron thanked the more than 1,200 firefighters battling the wildfires in extreme heat. He also acknowledged this year's fire season was one of a kind, with three times as many forest fires compared to this time just two years ago. Fires in France, Greece, Portugal and Spain have destroyed thousands of acres of land and displaced more than 16,000 people in France alone.

Philippe Cordonnier spoke to the BBC at a shelter outside of Bordeaux.


PHILIPPE CORDONNIER: (Through interpreter) We see it on TV, and we tell ourselves it will never happen to us. And then inevitably, when it happens to us, it's a bit strange, especially the people shouting. It isn't reassuring. The smell of smoke and all that - it's scary.

ROSMAN: But not everyone in the affected areas is willing to leave. This retiree in central Portugal brushed off a local television journalist's concern about his safety.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Speaking Portuguese).

ROSMAN: "Where can I go?" he asks. "Jump into a water tank? I'd rather stay here."

The wildfires have been driven by a record-breaking heat wave expected to grip parts of Europe through Tuesday, with temperatures exceeding a hundred degrees Fahrenheit in some places, including France, Spain and even the U.K. The extreme heat has been blamed for more than a thousand deaths in Spain and Portugal alone, with fears those numbers could climb as the heat wave makes its way across the continent.

For NPR News, I'm Rebecca Rosman. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rebecca Rosman