Fires in South West France: Saft employees volunteer to protect the community
Fires in Southwest France recently destroyed vast forested areas. Melissa and Gilles, both Saft employees and volunteer firefighters for decades, were in the field, fighting the flames and protecting local citizens.
Mélissa Duboureau - Prototype Technician at Saft's Incubator - Sub-Officer at the fire station of Saint-Sulpice-et-Cameyrac
Mélissa Duboureau has been at Saft for 24 years now, she’s a prototype technician at the incubator, part of our worldwide R&D center based in Bordeaux. When she’s not designing and testing new products, she’s a Sub-Officer at the fire station of Saint-Sulpice-et-Cameyrac where she has been a volunteer for 21 years now.
“There’s no fireman in my family and I did not plan to become one myself. It just came to me thanks to a training of first aider at work I was offered during my first year at Saft. I then took several trainings on safety till I had a chance to enter a fire training truck, where you can simulate a fire and learn how to stop it. I loved it and decided to become a volunteer firefighter. It was 21 years ago, and I never regretted this choice. It turned out to be a passion.”
With the years, she has continued to grow her skills, doing training courses, and obtaining several driving licenses. She has 5 licenses today, including heavy trucks and trailers. “It was never a wish, it was just another tool to better fulfill my mission, so I did not hesitate!” Mélissa is now a Sub-Officer, and she is on call after her working hours at Saft and during the weekend, when she might be called on a fire or on a car accident in the area.
She remembers the last few days when she was in the firemen teams to fight the fires in the Landes Forest “This is a very specific area to fight a fire – the topography, the wind and the sand make it very difficult to deal with it.”
Now that the fires at Landiras and La Teste-de-Buch have been contained, Mélissa remembers how long and difficult it was, and how sad it is to see such a beautiful area turned into ashes “It seems so unreal to see a whole part of our beautiful forest burnt. It was not only the forest, but also animals, plants and trees gone. It’s really sad.”
What she likes the most about her commitment is being part of a team of 30 volunteer firefighters who deal with 1,400 interventions a year every day, around the clock. “They’re like family to me, it’s a teamwork and I’d be nothing without them!”
Gilles Helschger - Health, Safety, and Environment Director at Saft - Fire Captain for the whole region of Aquitaine
Another Saft employee, Gilles Helschger, has been a volunteer firefighter for 28 years now. Gilles is Health, Safety and Environment director, based in Bordeaux. He has been with Saft for 4 years, and with TotalEnergies for 17 years.
When he’s not promoting the Safety rules to ensure occupational safety & health, Gilles is a fire Captain for the whole region of Aquitaine. Like Mélissa, he’s on call and he was involved in the fight against the recent fires in the area, but he also has an expertise in Nuclear, Radiological, Biological, and Chemical risks (NRBC).
After 8 days of hard fights against flames more than 80m high, the fire was contained in Gironde a few days ago. Gilles and some 350 firemen started inspecting the areas of Landiras and La Teste-de-Buch to ensure all the potential risks were identified and secured.
"Our role is to secure the areas destroyed by the flames. We inspect the area – a red mark means it’s a risk area, while a white one means there’s none. We are particularly cautious about the gas cylinders to secure the work of the clearing companies. We also check the chemicals and other dangerous products which may be a health, safety or ecological risk.”
If you ask Gilles what he loves the most about his commitment and why he decided to join the firemen, his answer is straightforward “I love being in the field and feel useful for the community. It’s my commitment, someone needs to do it, so as much it’s me!”