A total of 361 firefighters from Germany, Poland, Austria and Romania will come to support their French colleagues in the Gironde.
Late Thursday evening, in the middle of the woods, Captain Thomas Mimigi spoke in English to the German firefighters, who had just arrived in the Gironde to lend a helping hand to their French colleagues.
He said to them as a welcome “Your safety is our priority. We will take care of you, but be careful: we are fighting against a monster. We have lost many battles, but we will win with you.”
The 65 German firefighters, who have just landed on French soil, accompanied by 24 vehicles, are part of the unit sent by several European countries to support France in its fight against fires, especially in the Gironde where smoke has been emitted from 7,400 hectares since Tuesday.
Also send canaders
On Thursday evening, 77 Romanian firefighters and 14 of their trucks also arrived in the West Department. They will be joined on Friday by Poles (146 firefighters and 49 vehicles), as well as Austrians (73 firefighters and 14 vehicles). A support system for a total of 361 European firefighters and 101 of their vehicles.
Greece, Italy, and Sweden have sent, or will soon do, two from Canada.
“We see a general mobilization. The Romanians arrived by military means, by military means. It’s a strong signal,” Lieutenant Colonel David Anotel, representative of the National Federation of Firefighters in France, explained on BFMTV.
This international support is part of the European Civil Protection Mechanism, which France participated in strengthening during its presidency of the European Union. “It is this standard that allows the modules to be easily integrated,” explained Thomas Miniague.
Liaison officers to facilitate exchanges
The European mechanism deployed to assist France consists of pre-prepared units. Foreign firefighters already had tents or camp beds at their disposal, which enabled them to settle very quickly into operations centres. So as of Friday morning, the German firefighters who arrived the day before were at work.
On the ground, the deployment of this European aid would be described as follows: Each foreign unit would have a Liaison Officer capable of speaking either French or English. Then the latter will be responsible for communicating with the Operations Command Center. The liaison officer then informs his men of the tasks to be performed.
It should also be noted that European firefighters will not be dismissed. European columns will be divided by nationality, so as not to complicate the connection, and therefore will not be mixed on the field with the French firefighters.
“To facilitate the process, each entity will remain in a group. We will not be dismantling the outer pillars,” a fire official said during Friday’s press briefing.
“Not everyone speaks English. It takes a very special adaptation of the command,” replied antenna Eric Brocardi, spokesperson for the Firefighters’ Union in France.
“I’m ready to do my job”
It remains to be seen whether German, Romanian or Austrian firefighters have the same methods of fighting fire as their French colleagues. “In general, we follow an attack system that is basically the same,” confirms Eric Brocardi, who nevertheless mentioned the potential difficulties in delivering equipment.
“We may not have the same ways of working, but we have the same principles. We have put in liaison officers, because communication is the only difficulty. This system will allow us to be linear, and we will hire them like our colleagues from the other SDIS,” rejoices David Anotil.
In response to a question by several journalists on Friday, a Romanian firefighter said: “I’ve never worked on such big fires, but we have experience. (…) I’m excited, ready to get my job done.”