On the bottom, two officers from a particular cellular brigade of France’s paramilitary gendarmerie pace an extended a forest observe.
Above them, a helicopter scans the panorama to warn them of any fires or anybody who may be trying to begin one.
These are the members of a newly created police group who’ve simply began patrolling in southwest France to hunt out and arrest the fire-starters devastating the area’s forests.
Within the final week, a minimum of 20 fires have damaged out within the forest bordering the seaside resort of Soulac-sur-Mer within the La Gironde division of southwest France, says the native gendarmerie.
Whereas some have burned for only a 100 sq. metres (322 sq. toes), the biggest devoured 30 hectares (74 acres) of forest.
Scorched bushes and charred trunks line the paths and cycle paths that criss-cross the woods.
To cease the devastation, native officers have despatched within the new unit, the Forest Vigilance Platoon (PVF) made up of 15 reservist gendarmes, a senior police officer and two motorcyclists from the cellular brigade, backed up by the helicopter.
Unfold throughout three zones, the PVF patrol the forest on motorbikes, all-terrain bicycles or in automobiles, the place doable, on the hunt for fire-starters.
Arrange simply final week they began patrolling on Thursday.
The thought is that the PVF will release firefighters who’ve been stretched skinny battling blazes that since Tuesday have burned up 7,400 hectares of pine forests on the southern finish of Gironde.
“After the key fires in July, we noticed an increase within the variety of arson circumstances,” stated Martin Guespereau, deputy prefect for defence and safety within the Nouvelle-Aquitaine area, which covers the Gironde.
“There are round twenty fires of unknown origin a day in Gironde.”
Based on France’s Nationwide Forests Workplace (ONF) 9 out of 10 fires have been began by individuals — and three out of 10 have been began intentionally.
– Forest off-limits –
“The Forest Vigilance Platoon is a help division, whose intention is to forestall, detect and doable to arrest,” stated Captain Christophe Roque, who was given the job of placing the group collectively.
Pink-and-white indicators on the fringe of the Soulac-sur-Mer forest inform walkers that as a result of “very extreme” threat of fireplace, the forest is off-limits to the general public till additional discover — and has been since August 11.
A couple of cyclists have been nonetheless out on the paths on Saturday, have been rapidly intercepted by the gendarmes of the PVF.
“As quickly as we come throughout somebody, we get their id,” stated one member of the group, Bruno Kechtoff. “As a result of if we come throughout the identical particular person a number of instances, then that turns into suspicious.”
A message comes over the radio: two outbreaks of fireplace barely 500 metres (yards) aside, close to Bazas, south of Bordeaux, the regional capital. A neighborhood has reported seeing somebody on a moped carrying “yellow-trimmed” trousers”.
The LVF’s helicopter veers off in direction of Bazas, 130 kilometres away (80 miles) away.
The place they’re despatched subsequent depends upon the place the following fires escape, says Constable Jeremy Hernandez. “We have now been referred to as right here urgently however we are able to transfer if different areas are involved.”
Then they’re of their automobile and driving off, siren wailing, on the look-out for a quad reported within the woods.