It was a day of learning Sunday at the Chico Fire Training Center with demonstrations on tactical car extractions, rope rescues and hazardous material spills, all valuable lessons that will be taken back to france. " California techniques, about wild land fire and car accident here, so we learn a lot a lot about how you organize here", said French Officer Necols Venet.
The group of 32 French fire officers are recent graduates from The French Academy For Fire, Rescue And Civil Protection Officers in the south of France. The officers and five instructors raised more than 50,000 dollars to make the trip to California to work with Cal Fire and learn techniques used in this area since France and California have much of the same climate, fire environment and topography. " We are very happy because we can, we can have a good experience with what is done here and what is done in France", said Lt. Col. Rene Spies.
The officers got an up close look at emergency equipment used to rescue people in trapped cars, and even got to get a little wet with hands on training in swift water rescue at Butte Creek. And it's rescue training tactics like this one these French Officers say they'll be taking back to their country. " We learn a lot about American techniques and I guess we will use it in France to share experience with other French Firefighters", said Venet. But it isn't just the french officers who gained something out of this experience. " Every employee both with the city, county and Cal Fire that have met these individuals have come away with a smile on their face and an enrichment", said Cal Fire Butte County Fire Battalion Chief Mike Shorrock.
The officers started their journey on April 4th in Napa County where they learned about Cal Fire's fire prevention program, then headed to Lake County to gain knowledge about hand crews and bulldozing operations before they made their way to Chico. They will wrap up their visit April 11th with a trip to Cal Fire's Northern Operations Center in Redding, though many say they aren't ready to leave. " I don't want to get back to France. I want to stay like one week more, but when we get back to France we will share the experience that we learn here", Venet said.
Cal Fire hopes to establish an exchange program with the French National Fire Academy so both countries can continue to share their expertise.