Since 12 July, flames have set fire to the pine forests of the Gironde. Faced with the disaster, hunters in the region mobilized to help firefighters in their mission and limit damage as much as possible.
Watch the fires 24 hours a day, supply the firefighters to fight the flames or even take in the animals… The hunters of the Landes have fully adhered to a process of solidarity and to fight the fires, which have been ravaging their region for almost and sometimes their homes.
Jacques de La Chapelle is a doctor in the Landes, but he is also a hunting foreman. Today, faced with the extent of the fire, he mobilized with other hunters. He detailed, for CNEWS, the actions taken.
“From memory, there are no people in Lande who have gone through such a mess,” he says before continuing, “when the fire started, we told ourselves the Canadairs were going to arrive and then they weren’t there and so they couldn’t channel , then it’s a real disaster.”
A disaster that forces mobilization. “There are a lot of hunters in the Gironde and they are active with the fire department and the DFCI (Defense of the forest against fires) whether for fire monitoring, stewardship with firefighters or even reception. hunting animals”, explains Jacque de La Chapelle.
Fire start monitoring
Among the actions of the hunters in the face of the flames, the monitoring of the beginning of the fires. Once the fire is extinguished by firefighters, hunters are on the lookout to monitor any new fires.
“There are many hunters and villagers who come with their tractors and water tanks and watch. If there is a fire that starts again, they can put it out without having to mobilize the fire department. We took turns to monitor the risk areas day and night and prevent fires from starting again where firefighters already dominated them”, said Jacques de La Chapelle.
Another mobilization item for hunters, the widening of forest trails to allow faster access for firefighters, but also doubling the number of firewalls.
“The mayor bent the firebreaks, felled the pines along the road, and then the land turned over so that when the fire got to these places, they would be more easily contained.”
For this, some hunters, who are also farmers, participate in the return of the roads with their tractor so that the land better blocks the spread of the flames. A complementary action to that of the tractor that turns larger terrains.
Refueling firefighters in the field
It is an aid post that may seem more trivial but which is of great importance: participation in the supply of firefighters on the ground. Hunters contribute to the management of fire soldiers. They bring something to quench their thirst and feed directly in the field.
“One night,” recalled Jacques de La Chapelle, “we organized a dinner for them with grilled meats prepared with plancha.” A simple way to give thanks and at the same time regain strength to fight the great fire that has already devastated about 20,000 hectares of land.
A great show of solidarity
It was the enormous manifestation of solidarity among the inhabitants of the region that most marked Jacques de La Chapelle.
“People organized themselves to take in the game animals that had to be sheltered from the fire”, he explained before giving his personal example “on Monday morning we were told that the animals had to be moved. I have 70 (hunting) dogs and 5 horses. At 9:30 am I started calling to deliver them at 1 pm, everyone had already left the house.”
The horse world also showed solidarity, “the stables at the hippodrome of La Teste had to be evacuated. I have friends who breed and have large stables who have already hosted some of them. There has always been great solidarity between hunters (hunters, editor’s note) and the racing world.”
But solidarity does not stop at hunting animals, “some people took sheep and others to their homes”.
an environmental disaster
However, if the fire did not spare the flora, the same goes for the fauna. Jacques de La Chapelle estimated that no assessment of animal mortality was possible at the moment, but it is certain that many wild animals died from burns.
“During the surveillance of the fires, we saw animals completely lost and in panic, atrocious things” testifies Jacques de La Chapelle with emotion.
It is for animals considered to belong to the category of small game, that is, birds or even hares and other small terrestrial mammals that the balance will be more difficult. Large animals such as deer, wild boar or even deer can travel great distances quickly, which allows them to change territory frequently.
“They will come back faster when the fire is under control”, explained the hunter, but for “the hare, for example, let’s see what happens, if there are many dead, they take longer to return to the area”.
The Landes forests are not the only ones to be ravaged by fire. In Finistère, 1,400 hectares have already burned and the fire continues.