Should we create a reserve of farmers to help firefighters against fires?

Their water barrels are huge. Sometimes decried when they transport odorous slurry, the huge tanks of French farmers have found an unexpected new use this summer. While the French forests were ravaged by the flames, dozens and dozens of peasants left their fields to approach the fire and supply the firefighters with water. Just imagine: when they transport 18,000 liters, or even 25,000 liters of water, the farmers’ tonnes have capacities three to four times greater than that of a canadair. Colossal.

The spontaneity with which the peasants have swept into Gironde, the Jura, Anjou, Brocéliande and Finistère has been hailed everywhere. To the point that some mayors have suggested compensating them to compensate for fuel consumption, without the proposal being unanimous. In Finistère, an elected member of the departmental council wants to go further. He has just written to the prefect to ask for the setting up of a “reserve” of farmers capable of coming to the aid of the firefighters. “When I went to the Monts d’Arrée after the resumption of fire, I felt the frustration of the farmers. They wanted to help but didn’t really know where to go. In the emergency, coordination failed. We have to work together, cooperate, to better trigger, ”said Kévin Faure, departmental councilor for Finistère.

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This feeling was confirmed to us by Mickaël, a farmer living on the edge of the Brocéliande forest, in Morbihan. In August, he was called by a colleague elected in one of the towns surrounded by fire. “We left with two tonnes of water to supply the firefighters. The first time they sent me down a small path where I couldn’t even turn around. I didn’t want to go back there, it was dangerous. But we wanted to continue to supply, so that the firefighters could continue to work. But no, we weren’t asked anything. We spent three hours lounging about”. A little bitter, the breeder denounces “the poor management of the leaders” who were directing the operations that day. “The firefighters preferred to waste time going to refuel,” he adds.

“You have to know how to talk to each other”

In Brittany, the risk of fire was probably minimized, the region thinking it was spared. It was before this very special summer. “In the 1990s, there were serious fires and we had organized ourselves with the firefighters. But it was abandoned, ”recognizes Cédric Henry, breeder in Paimpont and president of the FDSEA 35. He is for the improvement of the somewhat forgotten links with the firefighters. “You have to know how to talk to each other”. But he feels compensation would be appreciated. “I am also in favor of it, but within a legal, supervised framework. This is why I defend the creation of a reserve. Compensation could be an incentive to take part, ”said the elected Kévin Faure.

In Landiras, the firefighters received support from farmers who notably provided them with a water supply. – P. Lopez/AFP

This reserve, not everyone is in favor of it. Not on the principle of better coordination, which is applauded by everyone. But above all because systems already exist, in particular since the Civil Security modernization law of 2004 which protects stakeholders. Problem: these tools are not used enough. “Town halls can activate their municipal civil security reserve as they sometimes do during storms or floods. It is quite developed in the rural environment. But not always up to date,” assures Matthieu Jomain. The commander of the firefighters of Gironde masters the subject well, he who has long been head of the center near Bordeaux. This summer, he was able to see the outpouring of solidarity when thousands of hectares were ravaged in Landiras and La Teste-de-Buch. “Help from farmers has been crucial. We injected them into our operational system. Usually they stay on the sidelines. There, they were at the front, ”explains the commander.

Some managed the water supply for the SDIS trucks, saving the firefighters from going back and forth to reload. Others who did not have the appropriate valves were given the task of flooding sectors to avoid resumption of fire. “The coordination was excellent but also because we know each other. We are used to seeing each other, talking to each other. I understand the mayors who call for the creation of such and such a device, it starts from a good will. But often, it already exists. We think about it during disasters and afterwards, we forget”.

The article is in French

Tags: create reserve farmers firefighters fires

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