A network of 22 watchtowers dotting this forest in the Gironde in southern France is the first line of defense against wildfires that can start with just a wisp of smoke on the horizon. Escutia, a former trucking company owner, is contracted by the fire department to work in the tower for six months during the summer fire season, but he also works outside the contract as a volunteer. He is in his fourth year at the fire service. When the July fire was very bad, on several occasions Escutcia would end his shift at the tower at 10:00 PM and join the front line firefighters at midnight for a shift until 7:00 AM, then return to the watch tower at 10:00 AM. “I didn’t sleep much,” he said with a smile.

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