She works in the shadows but plays a very important role which will increase over the weeks. The regional association for the defense of forests against fire (called DFCI) has a role of surveillance and watering behind the fires, while the firefighters attack the fronts and fight directly against resumptions. In Aquitaine, the DFCI brings together more than 200 trade union associations of forest owners who represent around 2,500 active volunteers. Many of them are hard at work in Gironde where two extraordinary fires have already consumed 20,800 hectares of moorland since July 12 and are not yet fixed.
The DFCI teams have been mobilized day and night since July 12 with the support of private forestry companies. “During the first phase of the fire, DFCI volunteers, and in particular those who manage the tracks and water points, are mobilized to inform the firefighters of the particularities of the massif. [coupe rase, peuplements plus âgés, etc.]. They play the role of forest orientation guide for the firefighter”, explains Marion Laquerre, engineer at the DFCI.
The development and maintenance of forest tracks, crucial for access by firefighters, is the main occupation of the association in normal times. “You should know that in Gironde, we have the greatest number of forest fire starts, before the mouths of the Rhône, Corsica and the Var. Since July 12, we have had more than 150 fire starts, more than twenty per day. It’s considerable, ”says Bruno Lafon, president of the DFCI.
Farmers and hunters, a good part of the “forest world”, are also put to work alongside the DFCI, bringing the workforce to around 800 volunteers. This Thursday, 67 machines are deployed on the two burned sites of La Teste-de-Buch and Landiras for emergency forestry work and in particular the construction of firewalls aimed at depriving the fire of fuel. “We will sacrifice a hundred hectares if necessary to preserve thousands of hectares and we will put the area in white sand, explains Bruno Lafon, president of the DFCI. We did it over a width of 200 to 300 m, it was enormous, near Biscarrosse and in a more reduced way on Landiras, between 50 to 100 meters”.
Monitoring and watering
At the moment in the Landiras and La Teste sectors, they are “guarding the fire”, in the words of the president of the DFCI. “With our trucks which are yellow and not red, we prevent the smokers from starting again because the biggest difficulty we are going to have is that this fire does not start again, points out the forester. And since we have a fire tower of more than 66 km, that’s a lot of area to monitor. They hit these smokers, pieces of smoking charcoal, with a kind of rake and water the areas still a little at risk to prevent any resumption. “If there is one, we call the fire department,” he said.
Marion Laquerre returns from a reconnaissance mission in the field with her colleague. “We went to check the edge of the south side to choose the best method of securing on the basis of elements of the SDIS, she explains. As long as there is no significant precipitation there will be hot spots and areas where the fire will be buried and where it can start again. As much in the heart of the burnt area there is no longer too much vegetation so this limits the risk of recovery but it still exists on the outskirts.
Our file on the fires in Gironde
The actions are increasing in dimensioning because as the burnt areas are stabilized they come under the supervision of the DFCI. It’s a long-term job that will continue until the fall for the teams. Even when the firefighters declare the fire extinguished and leave the scene, the members of the DFCI, forest fire sentinels, will remain on standby on site.