Gaël CIRES: a student and a volunteer firefighter!
Gaël CIRES, a Master student in Financial Transactions and Corporate Strategy in the Grande École Program at IÉSEG, has proven, since the age of 16, his strong civic commitment as a volunteer firefighter in his spare time. Discover the portrait of this young man committed to the community.
Why did you choose to become a volunteer firefighter?
I enlisted as a firefighter in April 2017, when I was 16 years old, the legal age to become a volunteer firefighter. Of course, I started off with mandatory training, which included several modules including one on first aid. Being from the South of France, I decided to become a firefighter in this region, so I also followed a specialized training in forest fire. After this initial training which is of variable duration according to the availabilities that one has in his/her planning (it took me approximately 2 years and a half to complete mine), we are able to carry out our mission without a tutor.
I have always been immersed in the “world” of firefighters because it is a profession that is an integral part of my family: my father has been a firefighter since the age of 16, my mother is a firefighter-pharmacist, my brother has been a professional firefighter for 5 years and my aunt was also one. This environment certainly contributed to my desire to become a firefighter, but it is above all the civic commitment that it represents that attracted me. Providing first aid and coming to the rescue of people in danger is a way to give back to society what it offers me in a positive way.
What is it like to be a volunteer firefighter?
Every fire station is organized differently. In my case, we have professional firefighters on duty during the day and we have 3 on-call teams for the night and we rotate every week. In terms of commitment, this requires quite a bit of availability and volunteer firefighters are expected to be available whenever they have the opportunity. So, as soon as I have free time during my on-call days (weekends and vacations) I go to the South to accomplish my mission as a firefighter. I give great importance to the sense of commitment. Discipline is also important. We can’t miss the roll call and we have to follow the instructions given to us during training to the letter. When the alarm sounds, you must be out of the fire station within 10 minutes.
My fire station intervenes in a 30km radius. My missions are really diverse: it can be the destruction of a bee swarm, the rescue of a cat, or to provide first aid on the highway after a car accident, or even the extinction of a wildfire… I would say that helping people (someone who has cut his hand, broken his arm, who feels bad…) represents about 80% of our interventions. Obviously, interventions on forest fires are more frequent during the summer period and will continue to increase with global warming and the drought. The diversity of the missions makes this job particularly interesting.
Being a student at IÉSEG and a volunteer firefighter, isn’t that too difficult to manage?
It’s true that since I’m studying on the Lille campus and I’m assigned to a fire station in the south of France, it’s a little more complicated, but it’s mostly a question of organization and planning beforehand.
What do you like most about this civic engagement, and what do you get out of it?
The social dimension and the fact that I feel useful by helping our fellow citizens. It doesn’t matter who they are, what their status is, what their social class is… a victim is a victim in our eyes and we are there to listen to them and/or save them. I think that this experience has clearly made me grow up because I have faced difficult situations. I also realized a lot of things and learned to put life into perspective because I consider that I am lucky. I am very proud to reach out to people I don’t know to help them out of a complicated or even dangerous situation.
What is your goal after your studies?
My goal is not to become a professional firefighter, otherwise I would not have started studying in a management school. But I would like to be able to combine my future job with my activity as a firefighter. However, if some day I realize that I can no longer be sufficiently available to carry out my duties, I will withdraw from the fire station. Probably with sadness, because this commitment is close to my heart, but it is necessary to make choices. In any case, it will have been a wonderful experience that will have taught me a lot. Ideally, after my studies, I would like to join a boutique merger/acquisition. Having the chance to study at IÉSEG with fascinating professors, I have a lot of courses that I am interested in, so I am not closing any doors either…
A final word?
Just like the values of IÉSEG: ARISE (Accomplishment, Responsibility, Integrity, Solidarity, Engagement), I think it is important to get involved in a social cause, whatever it is. No matter where you come from, you must remain humble. To be able to receive, you must give of yourself.