Monday, July 24, 2006


Corsica's fire-fighters - 21st century heroes

The French newspaper Liberation today recorded a fire in the maquis near Calenzana in the Balagne region of north west Corsica over the weekend. While the fire service was tackling the blaze, it appears that there was a sudden change of wind direction and several firemen were trapped.

As a result, six of the fire-fighters sustained severe burns and remain in hospital - one with 65 per cent burns.

Fires in the Corsican summer's tinder-dry maquis are by no means uncommon in this island and the authorities have developed a number of ways of dealing with them. Beach visitors will have seen big sea-planes dipping into the sea, then taking off without stopping and dropping thousands of gallons of sea-water onto the source of the flames. Last winter, the fire service in Haute Corse invested in a number of hi-tech helicopters which will give them another weapon in dealing with the threats they pose. More subtle weapons include a public education programme, advising people against carelessness, and a zero-tolerance attitude towards arsonists.

But the main weapon they use is a force of dedicated, highly trained fire-fighters, rightly regarded as heroes in Corsica. It's dangerous work, and on Saturday some of these heroes were severely hurt in the course of doing their duty. We all owe them a debt of gratitude for the work they do.

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