The sapeurs-pompiers are the firefighters of France. They are organized, supervised and trained by the French Ministry of the Interior; specifically, they fall under the Civil Defence and Security Directorate (Direction des défense et sécurité civiles, DDSC).
There are approximately 250,584 fire service personnel in France operating 15,000 emergency vehicles out of 10,238 emergency centres.
Pompier means "pumper" and refers to the manual pumps that were originally used. Sapeur means "sapper" and refers to the first official corps created by Napoleon I; it was a military engineer corps.
They are divided into four categories:
- volunteer firefighters (sapeurs-pompiers volontaires — SPV), who have another job and are paid as firefighters only during trainings and operations (part time firefighters) — 195,417
- includes 34,797 (in 2004) in (communes) small villages fire services which are independent of the department's Fire and Rescue Service, this category should soon disappear, these sapeurs-pompiers should be integrated in the departmental service;
- professional firefighters (sapeurs-pompiers professionels — SPP) — 35,172, full-time paid firefighters.
Amongst the civil firefighters (volunteers and professional), 9,884 belong to the Emergency Medical Health Service (Service de santé et de secours médical, SSSM), as firefighter nurse or firefighter physician.
- military firefighters (sapeurs-pompiers militaires — SPM) — 9,283
Military firefighters are directly recruited and trained by the Paris or Marseilles Fire Brigades, but they maintain a military status in the same way as the United States Coast Guard is considered a military service.
- There are also few (328) civil volunteer firefighters (sapeurs-pompiers volontaires civils). The civil volunteers status was created in 2000 when the conscription was suppressed. It is a national service, i.e. full-time job for 6 month to 2 years, but with a reduced pay.
Headquarters are located in:
Sous-direction des Sapeur-Pompiers
87-95 quai du docteur Dervanx
Local organization is based in the various Departmental Fire and Rescue Services (Services Departmentaux d'Incendie).
- Fires 394,000
- AutoAccidents 331,876
- EMS 2,212,154
- Other 788,756
Paris and Marseilles comprise 14% of the national total.