Yorktown’s sister city of 20 years, the French village of Port-Vendres, France, suffered a brush fire that threatened residents and homes and destroyed approximately 65 acres of vegetation, including vineyards, on Aug. 10. More than 120 firefighters from the region battled flames throughout the night. No one was injured, though more than 100 people were evacuated from homes and spent the night in temporary shelters in the gymnasium and the Maison de Retraite.
The cause of the blaze is unknown, but it was fueled by a vicious wind, called the tramontane, which spread flames for more than one-half mile along a ridge, climbing to the historic Fort St. Elme. A new subdivision is located along the road called La Route Stratégique. Fire spread so rapidly that those who were asked to leave their homes were told to flee on foot, not even stopping for their cars. Among evacuees were guests at a local hotel near the train station.
The homes of three members of the delegation that visited Yorktown in 2010 were among those threatened. Jean-Louis Bellet was quoted in the region’s newspaper, L’independent, saying, “It was a furnace below the fort. It was hard to breathe because of the smoke and the fire, which was 15 meters behind the subdivision.”
Georges Grau, another member of the delegation, said in an email, “”Big flames were close to our house, licking at our garden. We had to water and spray all the garden from 10 p.m. to midnight..I am exhausted today but we are all safe and sound.”
The fire was extinguished fully after 9 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 11.