“What may have seemed exceptional is normal in 2022, and will certainly be a routine occurrence in 2023”

A view of the Landras forest, in the Gironde, where a fierce fire is spreading, on July 17, 2022.

Part of the Gironde, Bouches-du-Rhone, and surprisingly, Finistère, were in flames on the night of Tuesday 19 July. The situation comes as no surprise to Gregory Allian, president of the National Federation of Firefighters, to the world She asks why all of France is vulnerable to forest fires and “whatever it takes in terms of civil protection” to deal with them.

How surprised are you by the wildfires that are ravaging the country, especially in Brittany, a region historically less affected by this event?

Unfortunately not, I’m not really surprised. In the year In 2019 we were already experiencing fire outbreaks across France. During the summer we talk about forest fires, but the use of this term is outdated because now the whole of France is affected by forest fires from January 1 to December 31.

Also, like Landras, I call these fires “megafires” because of their ferocity and their size: the speed of spread or the height of the flames. It affects the economic and social life of the region and has significant and harmful effects on the people. In this type of fire, conventional fire extinguishing methods are no longer effective.

All climatologists are announcing the increase in temperature, the multiplication of heat waves, in connection with the increase in global temperature. What seemed unusual before is now commonplace in 2022, and in 2023 it will indeed be a common occurrence.

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The situation we are facing is similar to the Covid-19 outbreak in recent years, which exposed the weaknesses of an underfunded hospital system.

In France we have great power. [41,800 professional firefighters, 197,100 volunteers and 13,000 military personnel]But this has led to a reduction in the size of the fire brigade in some departments over the past two decades due to financial issues. [the departmental fire and rescue services (SDIS) are financed by local authorities]. Some fire stations are equipped with multi-purpose vehicles, preventing them from coming to reinforce other regions when the situation calls for it. We have gone from 7,500 fire stations fifteen years ago to 6,800 today with limited manpower and not all of them are trained in forest fires. This makes it especially difficult to deal with this “winter of all hazards” due to the fires, covid-19 as well as heat waves and non-hospital emergencies.

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