In France, the lack of water bombers against the fires worries

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In France, the lack of water bombers against the fires worries

France has 19 water bomber planes: 12 canadairs capable of carrying 6,000 liters of water each and seven Dash planes of 10,000 liters.

“The State must hear us”: on the French Mediterranean rim, elected officials as well as officials of emergency services and regional parks are concerned about the “insufficiency” of the air resources available against the fires, as fires affect other regions.

President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday promised the purchase of additional planes to fight the fires , during a trip to Gironde, where two megafires destroyed nearly 21,000 hectares of forest.

The 22 planes with which the Civil Protection is equipped were sufficient in recent years . […] Do we need more? The answer is yes, he judged.

With global warming, the fires should indeed intensify in regions where they are already recurrent, such as the Southeast, but they are also likely to affect regions further north which until then were immune to these disasters, scientists from the National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (INRAE) warned at the end of June.

“The national context which requires the movement of air resources outside the usual area of ​​​​action jeopardizes the coverage of the Mediterranean departments. »

— Dominique Lain, President of the Var Fire and Rescue Service

This department, both very wooded and very touristic, had been affected by the largest summer fire in France in 2021. More than 6,000 hectares had burned in the hinterland of the seaside resort of Saint- Tropez.

Firefighters attempt to fight a wildfire near Landiras in southwestern France.

And this year, drought and heat waves pose significant risks.

However, it is no longer possible today to preposition as every year on the department of canadairs [water bombers] or heavy helicopters when the risk becomes maximum, mentioned Mr. Lain, in reason for the mobilization of these means elsewhere, mainly in Gironde.

The strategy of rapid and massive attack […] on incipient fires, which has proven its worth for 30 years, with a reduction in burnt areas, is greatly degraded, he said.

The overall number of canadairs is insufficient for the territory, also judged this week the president of the Alpilles park and the network of natural parks in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur (PACA) region, Jean Mangion.

“It is today that pilot recruitments must be made, today that orders for canadairs must be placed. […] All this takes time and was not planned. Tomorrow it may be too late. »

— Jean Mangion, president of the network of natural parks in the PACA region

A few days ago, a fire covered 1,600 hectares in the Provençal massif of La Montagnette .

On paper, France has 19 air tankers based in Nîmes-Garons (Gard): 12 water bombers capable of carrying 6,000 liters of water each and seven 10,000 liter Dash planes (an eighth is expected in 2023), which refuel on the ground in one of the 22 pelicandros provided for this purpose in France.

Three Beechcraft reconnaissance planes and helicopters, including two heavy water bombers (4000 liters of water), complete the system.

France has also acquired two additional canadairs for 2025 as part of ;a grouped European order.

The president of the PACA region, Renaud Muselier, said Thursday that the region was ready to finance a third device. But he is waiting for the green light from the State, the only one authorized to place the order. They don't want to, I don't understand why, he regrets.

Some of the departments most exposed to the fires are forced to finance the rental of aerial means themselves.

Mr. Muselier explains that he also wants to finance a new pelicandrom in Hyères (Var) and also wait for an authorization from the State for this.

“We wanted to make economies of scale. […] Today, the reality is that the canadairs are old planes of which only 6 out of 12 are operational, for maintenance or spare parts reasons. »

— Renaud Muselier, President of the PACA region

Result, some of the departments most exposed to fires are forced to finance the rental of aerial means themselves each year to complete the national system, as in the Var.

The State must help us financially, implores Dominique Lain, who has made an appointment with the Minister of the ; Interior, Gérald Darmanin, to express his concern. It calls for collective awareness.

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