JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald
JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald
BAYFIELD – A French fire-science student doing an internship with the Upper Pine Fire Protection District got an introduction Wednesday to tree felling.
Dorian Iasbi, 20, shadowed Weston Cook as he dropped a ponderosa pine in Deer Valley Estates. He then helped Cook pile debris for burning later.
Cook is part of a 10-member seasonal fire-mitigation crew working with Upper Pine.
Iasbi, scheduled to join the crew soon, will learn to handle a chain saw among other forest-thinning skills.
Since he arrived about a month ago, Isabi has accompanied Upper Pine firefighters on a house fire in Vallecito and a wildland blaze on County Road 501. He also took part last Saturday in the area-wide medical-emergency drill at the Durango-La Plata County Airport.
Iasbi is mentored by Bruce Evans, the administrative chief of emergency services and operations for Upper Pine.
Evans had three French interns while with the North Las Vegas Fire Department. Iasbi is the first here.
“This is a good time of year for interns to visit because it’s a period of activity,” Upper Pine board president Jeff Dyar said. “I think we can learn as much from him (Iasbi) as he learns from us.”
The firefighter internship program is the culmination of a two-year major in health, safety and environment at University of Bordeaux 1 in southwest France. Students who want to specialize in fire science take a third year to earn the right to test for officer status in a fire department.
One-third of the graduates choose fire science, said Remy Anselm, an English lecturer at University of Bordeaux 1 who directs the foreign internship program,
Two-thirds seek careers in health, safety or environment, said Anselm, who was here Wednesday. He is making the rounds of venues where firefighter interns are posted.
Nine of 15 interns posted worldwide are in the United States, in such places as Las Vegas, Spokane, Wash., Chico, Calif., and Olathe, Kansas.
Interns in the past have worked in Ireland, Finland, Hungary and Australia, Anselm said.
Anselm has been at University of Bordeaux 1 for 10 years. He meets students once a week to drill them about English vocabulary central to their specialty.
“Language fluency isn’t the most important factor for interns,” Anselm said. “Academic excellence, interest and motivation balance that out.”
The French internship program started in the early 1970s to strengthen the country’s response to the increasing number of issues in occupational health, safety and environment, Anselm said.
Firefighters in France face much the same challenges as their counterparts in the U.S. – urban and wildland fires, flooding, medical emergencies and rescues, Anselm said.
They take two years of training to become a firefighter and one year more to have a chance at officer rank. Firefighter salaries vary, but the average fireman nets $1,900 to $2,000 a month. They work 12-hour shifts.
They are civil servants with a solid benefits program, so they’re not allowed to hold another job, he said.
“We screen applicants to reduce the chance of dropouts,” Anselm said. “This way we know the quality of the applicant, and they know what to expect.”
Iasbi’s father is a fireman in Sainte Livrade in southwest France. The town is larger than Savignac-sur-Leyze where the family lives.
“I’ve wanted to be a firefighter since I was little,” Iasbi said.
Iasbi said he will start his third year of studies in September. The internship ends June 18.