In the evening on Sunday, the Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin announced that “three additional planes will come to support the six already committed, to bring the fleet committed to nine planes”, to fight against fires in Gironde, “i.e. an increase in air means by 50%”.
“In addition, more than 200 additional firefighters will be hired from this evening (Sunday evening, editor’s note), with eleven heavy trucks”, added the minister in a press release.
“As I speak to you, we don’t have the planes we should have,” said Christophe Govillot, spokesman for the National Union of Flight Crew, to AFP earlier in the day. civil aeronautics (Snpnac) which “does not want to argue, but just work” in order “to help our firefighter friends in the field”.
In Gironde, the latter were still battling on Sunday to fix two devastating forest fires which destroyed nearly 11,000 hectares of forest and vegetation.
Based in Nîmes, the Civil Security air fleet has 12 Canadair, 6 Dash – a 7th will be operational in August, an 8th in 2023 – and 3 Beechcraft, according to Alexandre Jouassard, spokesman for Civil Security who underlines “the increase in our air fleet resources”.
But for Mr. Govillot, a third of each type of aircraft was not usable this weekend due to maintenance operations. “It’s not satisfactory,” he said.
“It is essential to immobilize a device for 4-5 hours to carry out these checks”, replies Mr. Jouassard who underlines that “the more you drop (water), the more your machine is used”.
For Mr. Govillot, there are “not enough mechanics to do all the repairs, there are not enough spare parts” and the private service provider responsible for maintenance, Sabena Technics, “is not up to the task. “.
“A plane has been out of engine for a month” and “repairs which should take 2-3 hours take 5 or 6 and are not very successful, with planes breaking down several days in a row”, deplores the trade unionist.
Another complaint, “the current number of pilots is not there: we are 16 captains, we should be 22”, estimates Mr. Govillot. Blame it on the “policy pursued by Civil Security for years”, according to him, however judging the training protocol signed in early July “very positive”.
“Going back to this at this time when everyone is fighting forest fires seems inappropriate to me”, replies Mr. Jouassard, emphasizing the “exceptional work of the teams in flight, in very difficult conditions”.
The commander recognizes at the same time a “tense operational device”. “A little more margin in the future is desirable because we know that we are going towards an increase in the number of interventions”, adds the spokesperson.