Oct 31st, 2018, 06:16 PM

Our neighbors, les pompiers

By Leila Roker
Image Credit: Leila Roker
The Firemen of Paris's 7th arrondissement are right next door to Combes, so what are their stories?

The American University of Paris is conveniently located next to the Malar Station of Les Pompiers, but aside from the few glimpses of the station's interior, or the 7 a.m. morning runs, there is not much AUP students know about the local barrack du pompiers. We are instructed to call 112 in case of an emergency, but who are our emergency, first responder neighbors?

Les pompiers, or "firefighters" in English, differ from the American definition of the title. In the United States, firemen or women are a government group who put out fires and occasionally respond to gas leaks or other residential disasters. However, in France, the firemen are the government group you call when there is a dispute, a cat stuck in a tree, or any other disturbances, not limited to fighting fires.

Image Credit: Leila Roker

Upon approving my interview with the department's chief, I was referred to a fireman who had some spare time during his shift. Bruno, a 7th arrondissement firemen gave me a tour around his three-story station.

Despite my preliminary knowledge, the American in me had to ask Bruno what were the most common incidents his team responds to. He said, "the most regular interventions are the smaller ones. People that faint, people that fall etc. Fires is the thing we do the least... but fires are my favorite intervention. It's why we train."

Bruno also explained that pompier training can start as young as after middle school. Technically, the firemen of Paris only require a middle school education. Then, applicants are tested on their responder skills, "which is followed by a four-month internship with l'Ecole des Pompiers de Paris, where they are exposed to the firefighter environment. After this period, there is one last test, and they are placed into a fire station," added Bruno.

The typical day of a firefighter can last for about 16 hours, intermittently for a couple days at a time. During these shifts, firefighters must also undergo training four times a day to stay in shape for any circumstance.

(Pictured Above) Firefighters' sleeping quarters, Image Credit: Leila Roker
(Pictured Above) Firefighters' Training Space, Image Credit: Leila Roker

Operating in a melting pot and tourist hub such as Paris, Bruno said the ability to speak other languages is key, "English is the most encountered language in Paris. Mostly because there are a lot of Americans in Paris. But technical English is the most necessary for the job."

Many countries, including France, have been implementing heightened security measures because of recent attacks or threats. Bruno explained how it has affected pompiers protocol as well, "security evolves regularly because society evolves. New risks. In Paris, we now meet more and more people that come from every part of the world, so it has changed from how we would operate five years ago."

Image Credit: Leila Roker

Lastly, Peacock Plume asked Bruno what are the best security tips for a student. He stated, "no candles during parties, and avoid ashing in precarious places."