France Insider/Paul Ben-Itzak

July 23, 2009

Military fire-starters in Marseille

Okay, so it seems pretty basic: If it’s 36 degrees (100 Farenheit) in the shade and the wind is blowing at Force 7, and you’re in a miliatary camp in the woods outside of Marseille, it’s probably not the ideal moment to start practicing your tracer firing. Yet this is exactly what happened yesterday at 2 in the afternoon at the military camp in Carpiagne, next to the Mount Latin, with the result that 1100 hectares were burned and it took 500 firemen/women to contain the fire, which is still being monitored this morning. Meanwhile, the soot is in the air in Marseille. The regional prefect, the appropriately named Michel Sappin (sapin = Christmas tree, sapinière = forest), speaking to Le Monde, deplored ‘the imbecilité of this act,” adding that “soldiers must abstain in these types of conditions. Last year, the same thing happened close to the Canjuers camp; it was the biggest fire of the summer. Today, it’s at Carpiagne. I have telephoned the military governor to tell him that it is inadmissable and scandalous that the soldiers, as if nothing had happened, continue their activities when there’s wind and the conditions are dangerous.” The good news is that there were no civilian victims, and just one sailor-fireman lightly burned, two more ligthtly intoxicated by the fumes as well as two police officers, Le Monde reported. Five houses burned down. The quartiers of Trois-Ponts and la Barasse were evacuated because of the noxious fumes.

For the errant soldiers, Marseille is also headquarters for the Foreign Legion; I suggest, send ’em there! For next summer, well, it’s just for this reason — stupid humans — that parts of the Calanques, the rocky terrain on the outskirts of Marseille, are off-limits to people during certain periods of the year. If the military can’t exercise some common scents, I suggest the same rules for them.

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