The Paris Fire Brigade in South Lebanon
France is one of UNIFIL’s oldest troop-contributing nations and their last deployment included members of the Paris Fire Brigade or Brigade des Sapeurs-Pompiers de Paris.
The pompiers de Paris is a French army unit which serves as the primary fire and rescue service for Paris. It is also the largest fire service in Europe.
What were they doing with UNIFIL? They were here as peacekeepers, and while performing their peacekeeping duties under Security Council Resolution 1701, they also decided to share some of their expertise with the local civil defense firefighters of Derdghaiya, a town close to the French base in South Lebanon.
“We are glad to reinforce our links with our Lebanese counterparts. This is for us an opportunity to use our experience to provide useful training and to contribute to enhancing safety and security within this region,” said the Chief of the Pompiers de Paris.”
The training was divided into two parts. The first session tackled techniques of controlling and surviving fires in enclosed spaces. The second session focused on vehicle extrication tools and techniques.
Following theoretical lessons, the local firefighters were given the appropriate gear, including oxygen masks and tanks. The interior of a shipping container was set ablaze. Then French and Lebanese firefighters entered the burning container, and the doors were shut.
This is the ultimate test of endurance, pushing even the best of the best to the limit. Fires can trap firefighters in tight spaces or rooms, forcing them to cope with the deadly fumes and resist the incredible heat.
Upon safely exiting the burning container the firefighters extinguished the fire, having learned important lessons about how to deal with one of the most dangerous situations in firefighting.
Next followed a series of vehicle extrication techniques. The civil defense firefighters practiced how to extract a car accident victim trapped inside a vehicle. Focus was placed on tools and techniques to fit into the bigger picture of strategy and tactics without forgetting that the end goal is not bending and cutting metal but rescuing victims.
Needless to say, the Derdghaiya civil defense fire fighters were grateful for the opportunity to have trained together with the Sapeurs-Pompiers de Paris.
The Paris Fire Brigade and the rest of the French Force Commander Reserve deployment leave Lebanon at the end of this month to be replaced with the next rotation.
UNIFIL is currently comprised of 48 troop-contributing countries.