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In the Lyon forest, the Rhône firefighters are ready to fight the summer fires

If the Rhône is a priori less exposed to megafires than the South of France, where the department’s firefighters will probably leave as reinforcements again this summer, global warming is reshuffled the cards for climatic dangers in an area that has experienced 900 departures from fire. last year.

By Antoine Sillieres

Posted update

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On the ground, reconnaissance 4x4s with an officer in front of the tankers are responsible for extinguishing the flames. AS / Le Figaro Lyon

Le Figaro Lyon

Rhône’s firefighters are ready for the forest fire season. To protect the 77,000 hectares of forest area in the department, but also to lend a hand to their colleagues in the south-east and south-west, where last summer was characterized by a series of “mega-fires”. The packages are made, assures General Emmanuel Clavaud, director of the SDMIS (Departmental-Metropolitan Fire and Rescue Service), under the morning sun in the singing forest of Pully, in Chamelet, where the department provides a training ground for the firefighters. The month of June barely begins when its men, about 1,600 units trained in forest fires, out of 6,500 professionals and volunteers, are on alert.

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In the Pully forest, in Chamelet, in the Azergues valley, the department provides SDMIS with land to train its truck drivers. AS / Le Figaro Lyon

And with good reason, they can be called from June 1, when the state no longer requires two, but four months of availability to leave the support column. “Our team is ready for this summer, we can deliver our reinforcements”continues Lieutenant Colonel François Drobacheff, forest fire technical advisor and leader of the northern group.

Wind and forests

As in the south, Canadians can now come and fill their tank directly from the Saône, near Saint-Georges-de-Reneins, in the north of the department. They were also used on the Beaujeu fire in 2015, which had destroyed 100 hectares in this commune of Beaujolais. Admittedly, the risk of fire is much lower in the Rhône than in the most exposed departments. We are also talking about vegetation fires and not forest fires. As elsewhere, they are still largely triggered by cigarette butts thrown on the side of the road, wild barbecues and private fireworks on July 14; and reinforced by the lack of clearing from individuals.

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The tankers can hold up to 4000 liters of water. AS / Le Figaro Lyon

Around 900 fire starts were nevertheless registered last year in the Rhône without major damage. “Douglas is more resilient than maritime guy“, Euphemized Colonel Lionel Chabert, Director of Prevention and Organization of Emergency Relief. “But we have several climate zones in the departmenthe continues. Ampuis-Condrieu is closer to the Drôme”. In crops, but also in wind, in the Rhône Valley corridor. This wind, which firefighters fear more than anything else. “It is crucial, without wind there can be a fire, but there is no spread”, emphasizes François Drobacheff.

Markers on fire

In the Rhône, the mapped points of attention are not in the dense forests in the western part, but in the southern part of the department. Another problem area concerns standing crop fires during the harvest season, especially in the grain plains of the Saône. “When it’s very hot, some cornfields go up in flames”, emphasizes Emmanuel Clavaud. Topographical, meteorological and biological data on the distribution of species in particular are cross-references in a hazard map, which makes it possible to have a risk condition.

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It is not in the densest forests that the points of attention are necessarily the most important in the Rhône. AS / Le Figaro Lyon

Exchanges with the ONF have been more frequent since the sub-commission for forest protection was established in the prefecture. “We must be ahead in the coming years”launches Francois Debrocheff, in the face of relentless global warming. “The climate of France will soon be the climate of Morocco”emphasizes Zemorda Khelifi, chosen by the majority ecologist of the metropolis of Lyon and president of SDMIS. “We didn’t think Jura or Finistère would burn…”, engages Lionel Chabert. In the Rhône, 96% of the forests are privately owned for average plots of 3 hectares. Either an important work to know and manage the territory, by passing some forest roads.

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14 tons of technology

In the forest of Val d’Azergues this Tuesday afternoon, the machine’s notched tires hit the already dusty track of this training and driving practice track. Machines that can swallow slopes with 50% positive or negative elevation and 30% overhang on rocky trails. The cabin shakes. The operational training for going out on a fire is called Giff for “Forest Fire intervention group”. It consists of 18 firefighters, a 4×4 reconnaissance vehicle and four tankers, the largest of which holds 4,000 liters of water. SDMIS has 30 of these large trucks located in the department’s barracks for quick intervention and 21 smaller ones.

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One of the 21 fire trucks in the SDMIS du Rhône. Fabrice SCHIFF CD69

They are equipped with an air bottle and a mask that allows you to retreat into the machine. Of “crowns of self-protection”, allows steam to be produced in an emergency to protect the truck while the fire passes. These 14-tonne machines cost 250,000 euros each, excluding taxes, out of an annual budget of 200 million annually financed solely by local authorities and recently burdened by the increase in the index point. The elected officials of the department and the metropolis are calling for support from the state. “We are reaching the end of the financial model and we are struggling to recruit”alarms Zemorda Khelifi as Christophe Guilloteau (LR), head of the department, asks for better compensation for volunteers.

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The local elected officials request financial support from the state for SDMIS’ annual budget of 200 million. Fabrice SCHIFF CD69

In the case of the largest fires, the civil safety helicopter provides support to have an overall overview of the fire and its spread. “The fire is alive unlike a building fire, it can come back to you”, Lionel Chabert testifies. The units therefore communicate via radio about the development, or with a two-tone siren when the frequency is blocked. With the fear of a call from a wanderer stuck in the fire. And taking into account the water resource. For firefighters in the field, but also the inhabitants of the sector, in times of drought. “This is the great issue that comes before us”, recognizes Lionel Chabert, who remembers fire that emptied the drinking water tower in certain villages. The firefighters therefore try to use non-potable water, by the Canadians therefore, but also by drawing directly from the Azerbaijanis to their cistern with pumping equipment.



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