What a wet week! Except for a few spells of welcome sunshine it has hardly stopped raining since last Friday. On a couple of evenings the storms were particularly bad with heavy rain and hail.
The River Grosne at Chazelle
Today we were on orange alert with 2 inches of rain forecast.
We went down to the mill at Chazelle to see how high the river was and met a couple of trailers loaded with cows leaving for higher ground. The horses in the surrounding fields did not seem in any immediate danger although they didn’t look too happy.
Despite the days of rain it was not as bad as the Great Flood of October 2008 when much of the land around the Grosne at Cormatin was flooded and the Chateau was in the middle of a lake. We had been in Chazelle at the peak of the flood, watching as a team of pompiers tried to rescue some horses stranded in a small corner of a field. It was too dangerous to swim them over the submerged fencing so the pompiers simply took them some hay and watched for the water to start going down.
The pompiers take hay to the stranded horses in the floods of 2008
Drier weather is forecast from tomorrow. After a long winter and a few false starts we are hoping to see some summer at last.
Chris and I were pleased to be the ‘victims’ in this month’s manoevres, the practical training session for the local pompiers. This time it was a joint exercise by Cortambert and Cluny. The Cortambert firemen can respond immediately with equipment that can be towed by a car. That’s quite adequate for small fires, but if there is a major incident the Cluny pompiers are called out.
The farmhouse at Butte à Vent
Early this morning we were taken to Butte à Vent, the impressive chateau that overlooks Cortambert. The farmhouse was already filled with smoke. We were given our instructions and led by the arm to our positions in the house, quite unable to see anything. I was left in the kitchen (a very unlikely place for me to be!). Chris was in the salon. You appreciate how how people become panicky and disorientated in a fire. We could see nothing.
The Cluny fire engines arrive
After yelling for help for what seemed ages we were saved by the pompiers in their full breathing gear and carried to safety. Once outside we were checked over and given oxygen. The pompiers are fully trained as paramedics as they are first on the scene at any medical emergency, not just accidents. I was also treated for a wound from a kitchen knife (that sounds more like me).
The pompiers emerge from the house
A funny thing. When asked afterwards which was the kitchen window I hadn’t a clue. Having seen nothing when we entered the house and being blind for quite a while I was completely confused.
Although this was only make believe we really were glad to see the pompiers. And it’s reassuring to know that in any emergency such a well trained group is on hand to help.
Every year just before Christmas the pompiers come round from house to house with their calendars which provide the opportunity for everyone to show their appreciation and support and give a small donation towards the firemen’s funds. Along with the calendar we are issued an invitation to join the pompiers for galettes and wine at the foyer rural. This takes place on a Sunday morning in January close to Epiphany.
Galettes are puff pastry pies containing almond paste. In one slice there is a little figure (it used to be a dried bean) and whosoever finds it wears the golden crown and becomes the king or queen.
It is an opportunity also to stage the yearly prize-giving ceremony. The pompiers are awarded for various achievements and training courses with certificates and badges. There have been no fires in the commune this year but there were four hornets nests to destroy and they were called to take eleven people to hospital.
The Pompiers' Awards Ceremony
As I have said before, the firemen play an important role in the commune. They are the first to attend to any emergency, whether it be a fire, flood or accident. It is just as well that they live in the commune and know every family as there are no street names or house numbers here.
We are amazed to find that the pompiers are all volunteers and are paid nothing for the hours they put in each month in training and emergency duties. They provide support for the whole community as well as being involved in many social events like the one this morning.
Galettes des Rois
The firemen arrive
Appelez les Pompiers! Call 18!
Early last Sunday morning we were involved in another exercise by the firemen. This time it was a practice for both our local squad and the much larger team from Cluny.
To set the scene: During a fête at the Foyer Rural a fire had suddenly broken out, completely filling the hall with thick smoke. Most of the villagers had escaped but several had not been accounted for. The local fireman appeared within minutes but were unable enter the building until the arrival of the Cluny team with their fleet of fire engines. The men donned breathing apparatus and fireproof clothing and disappeared into the choking smoke. They emerged carrying two victims.
A distraught wife could not find her husband so they went in again and again, eventually dragging out a third man who was rescusitated on the grass verge. The firemen were able to go in with the hoses and the fire was quickly extinguished.
Chris had played this poor man who had lain undiscovered in the smoke until manhandled out, bumping up the stairs and banging his head on the firemen’s oxygen cylinders. He was ‘resusitated’ until he was in a fit state to be taken away to hospital. Despite Chris’s complaints about the thick smoke and having to lie out on the wet grass he really enjoyed play-acting the victim. As the victim’s wife I could not fault the bravery and the efficiency of the firemen.
Afterwards there was a debriefing session in the hall. The whole exercise had gone very well. The chief fireman made the point that one of the victims had been rescusitated a bit too near the road and would be in danger from any driver who was distracted by the goings-on.The firemen then sat down to a well earned breakfast of ham, saucisson and bread, washed down with plenty of wine.
After all this excitement so early in the day we were free to enjoy rest of the warm sunny day that Sunday had become.