A veteran Normétal firefighter: “We will fight until the end! » | Wildfires 2023

A veteran Normétal firefighter: “We will fight until the end! » | Wildfires 2023

A veteran firefighter from Normetal: “We will fight until the end!” | Forest fires 2023

Antoine Baillargeon, 71, came out of retirement to lend a hand to his fellow firefighters in the fight against the Normétal forest fire.

At Normétal, the fire was still considered out of control on Friday and was still at the gates of the municipality, but was not advancing.

The arrival of a team of major fire specialists from New Brunswick is greatly appreciated by the SOPFEU firefighters and also by the Normétal firefighters team who have been fighting the forest fire ever since. now a week.

They won't get us, that's for sure. We will fight to the end!, launches with conviction Antoine Baillargeon, 71, who came out of retirement to help his fellow firefighters from Normétal, other localities in Abitibi-Ouest and SOPFEU who are struggling day and night, toiling away for 12-14 hour shifts, to save the village.

At the height of the flames this week, however, Mr. Baillargeon feared that it was the end for Normétal.

“When we were evacuated , I did not expect to return. But the guys did a great job. »

— Antoine Baillargeon

125 fires are still active in Quebec. The situation remains critical, but is improving in several regions, in particular thanks to external reinforcements. In Abitibi, about fifty New Brunswick firefighters are taking over from SOPFEU. Report by Marie-Josée Paquette-Comeau.

Even if the village holds firm, Antoine Baillargeon warns the citizens of Normétal, evacuated since last weekend, that the landscape of their little part of the country will have changed a lot when they return.

They will not recognize each other, the change will be drastic. There are trenches all around the village. And it's all burned back, he points out.

Although Normétal's future is still uncertain, Antoine Baillargeon remains positive that the village will resist, considering these reinforcements arrived from New Brunswick. Yes, definitive, 100 percent confident!, expresses the one who has been a firefighter for 45 years.

Mr. Baillargeon and his colleagues can now take some well-deserved rest, now that a squad of 74 firefighters, 54 from New Brunswick and 20 from Quebec, have taken over to tackle the fire that threatens Normetal.

He recognizes that he and his men are quite tired, not to say exhausted. “They're superheroes!” he exclaims. Me, falling back into the role, we're there to coach, then it's the adrenaline that carries us. Normétal is my adopted village, I am a native of Lac Saint-Jean. I'll be the last to leave, they won't have the village, that's for sure. »

We feel that Antoine Baillargeon has a lot of esteem for his fellow firefighters. You have to see it to believe it, he says. Sure a lot of people won't believe us, but when they come back, when they go around, they're going to say, yeah, those guys worked to keep the village standing.

< p class="e-p">– With information from Jean-Marc Belzile and Frédéric Pépin