Forty metres above the forest, searching for smoke


The network of 22 watchtowers dotting this forest in Gironde in southern France is the first line of defence against wildfires, which can begin with just a wisp of smoke on the horizon. Escutia, a former moving company owner, has a contract with the fire service to work up in the tower for six months, over the summer fire season, but he also works outside of his contract as a volunteer. He is in his fourth year on the fire service. When the July blaze was really bad, a handful of times Escutia finished his shift on the tower at 10pm and joined the firefighters on the frontline at midnight for a shift until 7am, then returned to the watchtower at 10am. “I didn’t sleep very much,” he said, with a smile.


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