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Firefighters in France are using a balloon to spot forest fires as soon as they start

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The captive balloon can remain afloat for up to ten days at a time
The captive balloon can remain afloat for up to ten days at a time   -   Copyright  Christophe SIMON / AFP
By Euronews

Firefighters in the French city of Marseilles are using a balloon to fight forest fires.

The helium-filled balloon is equipped with a camera that can automatically detect fires within minutes of them starting and alert nearby firefighters.

Hovering 600 metres above the ground, it can spot forest fires up to 10 km away.

“It's extremely interesting, extremely precise. It transmits GPS coordinates of the fire to us, so it's useful for our teams when they go out on an intervention,” said Lieutenant-Commander Christophe of the Marseille marine fire brigade.

On firewatch 24/7

The tethered balloon is filled with helium, a lighter-than-air element that allows it to stay operational 24 hours a day, for up to ten days at a time.

"This is not a blimp. An airship is a balloon that is piloted and motorised, but this is a tethered balloon. It is connected to the ground by a cable, unmanned, there is no one on board,” said Baptiste Regas, Director of Aeronautic Services and Engineering.

Given the height it hovers above ground, the balloon is able to monitor the surrounding landscape without obstacles blocking its vision.

“The other advantage is its great resistance to wind. The model that is being used today can withstand winds of more than 80 kilometres per hour,” Regas added.

Video editor • Ivan Sougy