In this massif of conifers planted on dunes, savagely attacked by the fire which devoured 7,000 hectares, the equivalent of 10,000 football fields, the fire is officially “fixed”. But on the ground, the grueling work of firefighters continues.
The terrain is rugged, dune, you have to climb to reach the fumon, this fire which smolders under a stump and emits a little smoke. For that, “you have to shoot the spear”, underlines Kelly Sylvestre, a 30-year-old volunteer firefighter.
“It is no longer the urgency of the big flames. We are doing thorough, meticulous work to avoid any recovery, especially since it is still hot, and to reassure people,” she said.
The firefighters treat the “edges”, by drowning unburned areas around burnt areas with “wetting”, smother “smokers”, these incandescent points which can rekindle the fire, and cut down fallen trees.
They also extinguish flames in the event of occasional resumptions. “There are still a lot of them everywhere,” they say.
When land resources are not enough, the order to move away crackles on the radio and a helicopter comes to drop water in a few minutes, after a good blast of the horn.
“It will take quite a long time before this fire stops, it will be a job of several weeks”, warns Captain Pauline Aso, head of the sector where the Dordogne firefighters and their CCF (forest fire tanker) operate. ) of 6,000 liters, near Cazaux.
For the sub-prefect of Arcachon Ronan Léaustic, “we must insist that the fire is not extinguished, it can resume. Going into the forest remains very dangerous and it is prohibited. Charred trees can fall at any time” .
– “Heartache” –
This did not prevent the Dordogne firefighters from meeting people in cars on the forest road that day, and even a man on an electric mountain bike. Often, these premises report to them a few incandescent points or smoke.
“It’s a bit normal, they are so afraid that it will start again”, remarks, indulgently, Captain Patrice Bitard, volunteer firefighter in the Dordogne for 42 years.
“There is a trauma among the inhabitants,” says Chief Warrant Officer Benoît Gibaud, who praises their “logistical support”. They are sometimes approached with a “trunk full” of water or food.
At each meeting, there is almost always a kind word slipped to the firefighters.
Claude and Brigitte Macouillard, inhabitants of La Teste, slow down at the level of the Périgord firefighters and lower their window.
“As the President (of the Republic) said, you are heroes, everyone thanks you for your courage”, slips Claude, moved to tears. He knows that at 70, he will never see the forest in which he hunted again.
“We have a firefighter son, he was there on July 14 and sent us a message: It’s the apocalypse”, he says, and sighs: “This forest is ruined, it hurts my heart. “
In the coniferous forest, dense and difficult to access, the spectacle is incredible: exploded trunks, fallen trees, electric poles on the ground, small whitish smoke, scorched pines, sand blackened by ashes. A palette of colors in which green is absent.
Pauline Aso, the sector manager, usually center manager in Lacanau, in the Médoc, admits: “For a firefighter from Gironde like me, humanly, it’s difficult to see that. It’s our forest that is burning.”
“I was seasonal here, it’s all this sector that we love that went up in smoke,” she said before leaving to manage yet another hot spot.