For almost two weeks now, apocalyptic fires have attacked the forests of the Gironde, causing real disasters. Although we no longer dare to see the number of hectares burned in these fires, we must now ascertain the material damage to the rugby clubs in the region.
They destroyed everything. In their red clothes, the flames diabolically imposed their law on the Gironde lands. Over there, near Teste-de-Buch, the starting point of the first fire, everything is in ashes. Houses, premises, forests and other rugby stadiums: nothing could withstand the violent wave. But no sooner has the fire, it seems, been curbed by the firemen than it is already time to see the damage. For the inhabitants of Cazaux, a small stronghold of 5,000 people located not far from the Dune du Pilat, the consternation is great.
In the city, which was reduced to ashes, the inhabitants were finally allowed to return to the disaster site on Saturday. The city club and its chairman saw historic premises go up in smoke, as well as a lot of equipment belonging to the rugby team. “Wednesday morning I went to my clubhouse to hand over equipment, but also preparations for the rugby festival, said the heavy-hearted Didier Dupuis, the president of the Olympic Cazaux. It is a celebration that allows us to provide the club with a budget for the season each year. I had bought duck breast and confits for €4,000…” But a day later, on Thursday morning, the Gironde city was finally evacuated due to the great threat of a fire that had started a few hours earlier. “It was a member of my family who is a firefighter who alerted me a few days later and told me that the fire had taken the clubhouse and therefore all the equipment away. Only the stone fireplace was left standing.”, the president continues. With the flames, it is also a piece of the club’s history that is gone. “This clubhouse had been there since 1986. It’s an old resin log cabin that we had rehabilitated. It was part of the club’s heritage.”
Support from neighboring clubs
Fortunately for Olympic Cazaux, the stadium, which is more than a kilometer away, was not affected. But great material losses must be regretted. “Everything burned here. The homes, the campsites… It will be difficult for the town hall to manage.” Fortunately, Didier Dupuis can count on the unwavering support of the rugby world. “A lot of clubs have called to support us, starting with all the clubs in our Regional 2 pool. It’s huge”, he confirmed. Olympic Cazaux also received support from Rugby Club Bassin d’Arcachon, a neighboring club. “Didier Dupuis is a friend of mine and I called him directly, said the president of the inhabitants of National 2, Didier Carpentey. To help them, we will organize a friendly match against Gujan-Mestras and donate all the profits to the Cazaux club.” In addition to this, HYTTEN has decided to provide support to the disaster victims. “We welcomed the children to have them sleep at our club headquarters. The players and club members also participated in the distribution of drinks, food and offered to accommodate people.” Although RCBA was not directly affected by the flames, it is still at risk of suffering the effects of these fires in the medium term. “It is a financial disaster for every club in the region. In terms of partnerships, we risk shaking.”
The FFR and LNR Act
This mobilization of clubs, which reflect the famous values of rugby, is also accompanied by other support. That from Provale, for example. The professional players’ association has released a video in which Julien Dumora, Lenaïg Corson, Caroline Boujard, Gregory Annetta or Auch players thank the firefighters for their work. Also support from the French Rugby Union who got in touch with the Cazaux club just after the fires started. “I had my head in the bucket last Thursday, during the evacuation, and Bernard Laporte called me after watching the news on TV, remembers Didier Dupuis. He told me the league would help me and that gave me a boost. A little later it was the League that confirmed its support.
Among the aids, FFR has decided to invest financially to allow the club to regain some stability and reinvest in a clubhouse and infrastructure. The league, for its part, has organized itself as best as possible to provide solutions for the Olympic Cazaux. “We got in touch with the club, asks Sébastien Conchy, general manager of Ligue Nouvelle-Aquitaine. We have two main axes. On the one hand, to meet the material needs, so that Olympic Cazaux can resume its activities as soon as possible. On the other hand, we will launch an appeal for donations from across the rugby microcosm to support the club, especially as it counted on its village festival to complete its budget for the season. Finally, we will try to coordinate local initiatives, such as the scheduled friendlies to support Cazaux. These are meaningful initiatives and it’s great for the club.” Didier Dupuis, who was aware of the news for a few days, did not hide his joy: “On arrival they’re the ones who get us through! It feels good to feel helped. It proves that rugby is a family.”
Preparing for the season, after all
Despite these weeks in hell, and although it is still impossible to access the city, the Cazaux club must now prepare for its season in Regional 2. “We were supposed to resume this week (the one from 18 to 24, editor’s note), but of course we couldn’t. For the season we will act as if nothing had happened. The difficulty will be finding a new headquarters and clubhouse. I’ll ask a former player who has a bar-restaurant in town.” whispered the president of the Olympic Cazaux. He must also recover all his players. Two of them are also at the heart of the flames as they are also professional firefighters. “I have two players that are there. They’re leaving us messages on a group, it’s been going on for over a week.”
Like them, Maxime Redant was called to the front to resist the fiery attacker. However, he is not from the area: “I also met other Gers rugby players who came to fight the fire with me, added the second line of Muret. It quickly turns out, a guy who plays rugby. So we talked.” Redant is one of the heroes warmly applauded by the people who are fighting for their lives to resume their normal life in the Gironde. He pursues: “There are common points between rugby and firefighters. There is team spirit because we want to help our colleagues fight the flames. We can also compare big fires like that to a match between an Honor team and a Federal 1 team: we know , that the fight will be very complicated, maybe even lost in advance. But our warrior spirit pushes us to give everything to win.” The efforts of the firefighters, like Maxime Redant, make a reunion between Didier Dupuis and his entire workforce possible. The president of Cazaux ends with impatience: “I’m waiting for us to get back to town so we can all come together and resume the season. The priority is to find the players and resume rugby.” Hope the ordeal is over soon…