Olympic flame: Moussa Kebe, a link in Seine-Saint-Denis

Many children dream of becoming a firefighter

Olympic flame: Moussa Kebe, a link in Seine-Saint-Denis

Many children dream of becoming a firefighter. Fewer are those who, as adults, make their dreams come true. Moussa Kebe is one of them. As a child, he observed the fire station from the window of his family home in Aulnay sous-Bois (Seine-Saint-Denis), imagining himself one day going on a mission too. As soon as he finished high school, he joined as a volunteer firefighter while continuing his studies.

After teaching physics and chemistry for six years, he decided to change path and take the competitive examination to join the professional fire brigade. Since 2022, he has been the commander of the Gonesse barracks (Val d'Oise), the same one where he was a volunteer firefighter during his studies. “Everything you can imagine in your head, I have experienced it, even the worst things,” he says today about his job, as a warning signal rings out in the barracks.

Passionate about football, he plays in the Val d'Oise fire brigade team and is in charge of the women's selection. He is also one of the founders of the Espoirs Jeunes association in Blanc-Mesnil, the town where he grew up after his family moved. A commitment on all fronts which has a lot to do with the fact that he was chosen by the department to carry the Olympic flame on July 25, on the eve of the opening of the Games.

When the offer was made to him, he didn’t hesitate for a moment: “You’d have to be crazy to say no, it only happens once in your life,” he said. He considers it “a symbol of recognition” for everything he has been able to accomplish, but above all as an encouragement to go even further. With undisguised pride at seeing his department at the center of general attention: “All the spotlights will be on the 93,” he rejoices. What we do, we do for the 93.”

Moussa Kebe has a strong attachment to his department and his neighborhood, despite the precarious living conditions he experienced there. With his functions and background, he could not remain passive in the face of the riots that occurred in the summer of 2023, following the death of young Nahel, and tried to play the role of mediator vis-à-vis young people, striving to re-establish communication between them and institutions. “Everyone is stuck in their own world and thinks they’re right,” he notes.

The fire commander therefore imagined a reserve project for young citizens. For municipalities, this would involve setting up a group of 50 to 100 young people who can intervene in the event of a risk of violence. In return, these young people would be offered professional training. “In my neighborhood, out of 150 young people, there must be ten with whom we can no longer do anything and forty who are in between,” he says. The others are young people who are quiet. » The citizen reserve project concerns young people from the “in-between”, in order to avoid seeing them fall to the side of the “irrecoverable”.

Still in the same spirit, Moussa Kebe seeks to improve the perception of firefighters among the population. He thus enlisted sixteen young people living near the barracks as volunteer firefighters, also in order to improve the representation of young people from working-class neighborhoods in his profession. An initiative which also contributes to reducing the risk of stones during interventions.

His involvement in the Espoirs Jeunes association, which he founded in 2010 with high school friends and whose mission is to promote the personal development and civic engagement of young people, is another aspect of his commitment. The association operates in the areas of training and education, awareness of environmental issues, addiction prevention and entertainment.

The thirty-year-old has become a reference and a link in his department. The ceremony organized for his assumption of command at the Gonesse rescue center in 2022 was the best example of this. Many local residents were present. “My colleagues had never seen a handover ceremony like mine, it was incredible,” he remembers with emotion, in his office decorated with sports trophies and medals. And when I got back to my neighborhood, it was like the Fourth of July. »

A way for the future torch bearer to celebrate an exceptional journey and remember where he comes from, his parents, who came from Senegal, neither knowing how to read nor write. “When you succeed, you have to look behind you and not forget those you were with before,” he says. You never succeed alone. »