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US News Fires in California: firefighters exhausted by fires that do not weaken

13:25  22 september  2020
13:25  22 september  2020 Source:   france24.com

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Since the start of 2020, wildfires in California have burned over 3.2 million acres of land -- an area almost the size of Connecticut.

Un pompier face au feu près de Cedar Springs, dans la forêt nationale de Los Angeles le 21 septembre 2020. © AFP A firefighter facing the fire near Cedar Springs, in the Los Angeles National Forest on September 21, 2020.

Huge fires continue to ravage the western United States for over a month. In the field, fatigue and stress are felt among Californian firefighters, who are understaffed and subject to health constraints linked to Covid-19.

No lull for the western United States, in flames since mid-August . More than 19,000 firefighters were still fighting 27 "major fires", Monday, September 21, in California .

After a month of intense intervention, American firefighters, whose titanic task is made even more complicated by the coronavirus pandemic, are exhausted.

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"We have never seen such fires before," said Darrell Roberts, battalion commander with twenty years of experience. Returning from a three-week mission in the heart of the burning forests, this veteran blames this disaster on global warming.

"Every year the temperatures are rising, we are breaking new records and it is getting drier and drier. This is what I know as a firefighter who has been in the field for twenty years," he says. "Climate change has a direct impact. It's obvious to me. And you can't see the end of it," said Darrell Roberts.

Adapt the organization of emergency services to health constraints

The scale of the fires, which have already devastated more than 20,000 km2 and killed more than 30 people this season on the West coast, calls into question traditional fire-fighting techniques , pushed to their limits, according to Darrell Roberts.

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Exhausted firefighters continue to battle the flames, with some working 72-hour shifts in the dangerous, hot conditions, reports AP news agency. "They're scrambling for bodies" to help fight the fires , an official in the city of Fresno told Reuters news agency. In California 's oldest state park

The 2020 California wildfire season is a series of ongoing wildfires in the that are burning across the state of California . The season is a part of the 2020 Western United States wildfire season.

Added to this are the health constraints related to Covid-19. "It puts a lot of pressure on the fire department, because our job is to save lives, and now we also have to think about protecting ourselves," he explains.

Relief officials had to adapt the configuration of the base camps to minimize the risk of contagion. Many firefighters even brought their own individual tent for safety.

High rate of depression and suicide

Fatigue is also psychological, with danger, scenes of destruction and as a bonus distance from the family. This stress translates into a higher than average rate of depression and suicide among American firefighters, who are statistically more likely to end their lives than to perish on a mission.

According to Darrell Roberts, the firefighters lack human resources. "All firefighters are literally deployed on the front lines, with others from all over the United States and even other countries," he says.

More than 17,000 firefighters are hard at work against the blazes in California alone. For the battalion commander, a member of the International Association of Fire Fighters, the historic scale of the ongoing forest fires, which are expected to continue until the end of the year, will unfortunately become the norm.

With AFP

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