The Man Behind The Helmet

The GRIMP

The GRIMP is a special corps of the firefighters. This acronym means Groupement d’Intervention en Milieux Périlleux, which can be translated by Dangerous Environment Intervention Group. I had the opportunity to follow the men of this unit during a two days training. Whenever an intervention must take place in a difficult and unusual environment, the task is for them. In town, they operate on cranes or roofs, and also underground, in sewers or basements; out of town, in mountains, precipices, crevasses, fissures.

This training session was taking place out of Lyon. The situation was quite simple: haul a victim, injured or unconscious, down a cliff. For the first maneuver, I had the (somewhat dubious) chance to be chosen to play the victim lying in the rescue basket. In spite of the way I was tied, literally trussed up like a goose for evident reasons of security, the most surprising was the comfort and the smoothness of the descent. The rescuer in charge of accompanying the victim is constantly talking reassuringly and stabilizing the stretcher in order to avoid any stress that could add-up to the trauma and shock of his or her injuries. I was really impressed by their efficiency and technical expertise. Besides, tightly bound like I was, with only the sky and the face of the rescuer in sight, I would not say that I completely forgot the abyss yawning under me, but I was almost able to dismiss it. In the end, for me, the most striking part of the experience was probably the way I was bound in the basket. After that, I had the opportunity to observe the exercise from the outside.

A few days after, Jean-François Nivière, the supervisor officer of the GRIMP, called to ask if I would be interested in following an exercise from the top of the Crédit Lyonnais tower, which is currently the highest building of Lyon. Assignment of the day: one hundred and sixty five meters of abseiling, with ropes too short for going all the way down, entailing an obligation to perform a permutation mid-course. Again, I was fascinated by their ease and total mastery of the instruments they used during this very perilous exercise. I would like to pay a special homage to Jean-François Nivière for the way he welcomed me and gave me the opportunity to take these exceptional photos that I would never have made without his help.