‘We are waiting for rain, for winter, for God’ – Fighting a megafire in France

Hervé Trentin, a 34-year veteran of the Gironde fireplace department, stood on the facet of a charred part of woodland wiping tears from his cheeks. It was once the 2nd time Trentin had cried that morning.

 

“I’m sorry,” he said, composing himself. “This is our forest. It is heart-breaking to watch it burn.”

 

Trentin and his small crew have been transferring round an region south of the French town of Bordeaux, in the Gironde region, on Saturday morning, attempting to remain in advance of a megafire.

 

Their job was once to burn the forest, to create firebreaks – a tactic they had skilled for years to grasp and which put them in a small band of firefighters in the place succesful of doing the job. But Trentin additionally grew up simply down the road, and it was once making him emotional placing his domestic soil alight.

 

“It’s difficult for me to assume that I will now not see this woodland once more like it was,” he said. “I’m fifty three years old, and this wooded area will want greater than 30 years to recover.”

Trentin has a three-year-old daughter, and when he thinks about the future of the wooded area he thinks about her too. “I surprise what will happen,” he said, looking up toward the tops of the timber and past to the sky. “I do not choose to say our future appears like what we are residing this summer, but… you know.”

 

The humans of Gironde had barely had time to trap their breath given that the final megafire, in July, which burned about 14,000 hectares in the equal area. That blaze had seemed to be underneath control, however the warmth was once nevertheless in the earth – a so-called “zombie fire” that will re-emerge in power dry prerequisites and speeds up new fires.

 

Trentin labored the July furnace too, up to forty eight hours straight amongst the flames. “I had by no means viewed such a massive fire,” he said. “I understand the massive fires in ninety one and ninety seven however they did not unfold that fast.” Somehow the new furnace was once worse. The vegetation was once drier than ever. “Even the hardwoods burn like straw,” Trentin said. “Usually we use the hardwoods to assist us towards the fire.”

There are greater than 1,000 French firefighters now in Gironde struggling with this blaze, assisted with the aid of colleagues from a number of European nations. Not all of them share Trentin’s years of experience, and for some it is their first time going through a megafire that can go quicker than you.

 

When the new furnace was once at its top in the center of ultimate week, Trentin and his colleague Christophe Dubois had been working in the woodland when they noticed a fireball flying in the direction of them. “It’s like a wave coming over you, you can’t outrun it,” Dubois said. “You have to drop and lie flat on the ground.”

 

But 4 youthful colleagues from Toulouse froze, bolt upright. Dubois and a colleague scrambled to spray them with water and pull them down, however mere seconds had been too long, and two have been injured with 2d diploma burns on the legs and face.

As they ate, they talked about the fee they had lost floor to the furnace that previous week – about 6,200 acres in one night time alone.

 

“I have been a firefighter for forty years and I had in no way considered such a fire,” stated Jean-Pierre Le Cunff, tactical fireplace chief for the Haute-Garonne region, who has two sons in the force. “We are ready for rain, for snow, for winter, for God,” he said.

 

There used to be no disagreement that the local weather used to be altering for the worse. “We speak about world warming of course,” Le Cunff said. “We see it, we experience it. This year, it is striking. In the mountains there is no glacier any more, the whole thing is dry, the herds have nothing to eat.”

 

After lunch, the group used to be referred to as to an vicinity of wooded area on the outskirts of Belin-Beliet, an deserted village that used to be burned badly in July and once more in August. They set a massive tactical fireplace solely about 25 metres from a house, to shield it after the proprietor referred to as to say a new fireplace had damaged out on her land.

 

Firefighters had already informed Claudie Decourneau to depart domestic when the July hearth delivered towering flames close to her perimeter fence, however she declined. On Saturday, she stood and watched as they burned but extra of her land, the place she rears farm animals to stay off and sells her wood.

 

“I don’t favor to go away my animals, and I sense greater beneficial right here due to the fact I can watch for new fires,” Decourneau said. But she wept as she watched Trentin and Dubois and the group burn the land. On Friday, her strength died. “I am afraid of dropping everything,” she said. “We will now not supply up however it is very hard. Pines take many years to grow.”

The warmness was once fierce as Ducourneau’s land burned. When the flames licked up the bushes the firefighters moved shortly to douse them, however the region would be left absolutely charred. The prosperous woodland decreased to a wasteland.

 

When the burning phase used to be over, and the air full of smoke, the firefighters pulled again to their trucks, and speak became to the coming night. A storm used to be forecast – excessive winds, possibly lightning, however little rain.

 

“It is frightening,” Trentin said. “We do not recognize if there will be rain. If there is wind, and lightning, the fireplace will get worse.”

 

The storm was once forecast to roll in about midnight. About 11pm, the lightning and thunder began, however so did the rain.

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