Another expert, who wants the minister of civil protection, has warned that wildfires will become the norm in France and become a daily occurrence in the summer of 2023.
Read more: People in Ile-de-France smell smoke from Gironde fires 500km away
Grégory Allien, president of the Fédération Nationale des Sappers-Pompiers, the firefighter union, told Monde that he was not surprised by the fires currently raging in parts of Gironde, Bouche-du-Rhône and Finistère. They asked the government to “do whatever it takes to protect civilians.”
He said: “I am not surprised by the intensity of fires like those in Landras, which I call ‘mega-fires’ in their power and nature.”
“There is an impact on the social and economic life of the area, significant and harmful effects on the population and common methods. [of firefighting] They are almost ineffective.
Climate experts say global warming, heat waves and climate change are major contributors to wildfire vulnerability, Mr Allien said.
He added: “What used to be exceptional is now normal in 2022, and by 2023 it will be our everyday reality.”
‘With little money and limited resources’
The president said the fire service in France is similar to what was seen in the health care professions when Covid hit, which has been underfunded for the past few decades and the wildfires have exposed cracks.
He said: “We have a large firefighting force in France, but this has led to a reduction in the size of some of them over the last two decades due to financial reasons. [locally-funded] Sites.
Some fire stations are equipped with multi-purpose vehicles, which prevents them from going to other regions as reinforcements when the situation calls for it.
“We’ve gone from 7,500 fire stations 15 years ago to 6,800 with limited manpower, not all of them trained in bushfires.”
There are currently 41,800 professional fire fighters in France; 197,100 volunteers; and 13,000 firefighting military personnel.
‘No matter the cost’
According to Mr. Allien, the firefighters were expecting the government to do “everything it can” to ensure civil protection. First of all, “We need concrete emergency measures to get through the winter with material, adequate manpower and financial support,” he said.
The President of the Department of Maine and the President of the Fire and Rescue Services Group la Conférence nationale des services d’incendie et de secours presented Mr. Allien’s call with a similar message from Olivier Richefeau.
He is asking President Emmanuel Macron to create a position of under-minister in charge of civil security, and he said that fire prevention “does not only concern the Minister of the Interior, but also all the ministers”.
He told France Info: “Having a Minister of Civil Protection fundamentally changes the approach to defense… One of the problems we face in this Gironde forest is, for example, the question of maintenance, so it is related to the environment.”
Another very important problem is the problem of prevention among the population: today there is no course in our schools where we learn from a young age to follow the correct manners.
Mr Richfou continued, “It’s like road safety by automatically lifting your seat belt. We need to introduce a culture of risk into our approach. Because climate change is not going anywhere, all of society needs to be involved.
He called for more funding to buy more Canadian firefighting aircraft.
Compared to the 2006-2021 average, France had 5.8 times more hectares burned in 2022 (over 30,000 hectares lost).
This is more than Spain, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Cyprus in terms of real hectares, and places it fifth in Europe in terms of how many times the number of fires has increased (5.8 times compared to 48.3 in Hungary, 12.5 in Germany, 8.4 in Bulgaria and 6 in Spain).
Two fires have been raging in the Gironde since last Tuesday, and at last count more than 20,000 hectares of vegetation have been destroyed.
Read more: France wildfires burn 20,000 hectares, one under control
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