Unclothed French firefighters, known as pompiers, have caught the attention of international eyes, again.
This time it's thanks to the work of photographer Fred Goudon, who snapped a bunch of firefighters from across France to raise money for the NGO charity Pompier sans frontieres (see Goudon's site here).
“The reaction has been kind of amazing, people are going crazy for it from Russia to Mexico,” the photographer told The Local.
Indeed, one international website called it “the most stunning 2016 calendar you've ever seen”.
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One look at the pictures and it becomes clear why the calendar has got internet users around the world hot under the collar.
The calendar features everything from a totally nude firefighter in the shower (see far below) to topless lads out the front of the station, gazing steely-eyed off into the distance.
It helps of course that the pompiers are all ridiculously good looking and have sculpted bodies reminiscent of Brad Pitt in his Fight Club days.
But Goudon thinks it's not just the pecs and the six packs, it's also because firefighters have an almost mythical power over the public.
“For me and for many others, firefighters are heroes. Every single day, these guys are out there saving people's lives. And they're all so nice, so strong… and you can see it in the pictures that there is a kind of pride in them that others don't have.”
And it also no doubt helps that they're French, as French men and particularly French firefighters have a reputation for being hot.
“It's almost as if there's some kind of casting to get into the French fire service. Someone in the recruitment must have very good taste,” he joked.
When The Local asked a strapping firefighter in the 19th arrondissement of Paris about why he and his colleagues are all so good looking and in such good shape, we just got a wry smile and were advised to call the press office.
Ingrid Meucci, spokesperson at Pompiers Sans Frontières, brushes off the idea that recruits in France are chosen on the size of their six packs.
“Absolutely not! If you want to go out in the field, you have to be in good shape but it's not a part of the criteria. Your motivation and spirit are more important to us,” she told The Local.
Take a look at the “making of” video for the calendar, below.
“The calendar is for us a fantastic opportunity for us to do more for those who need it most. It's great that our fire fighters agreed to get naked for a good cause,” Meucci said
But firefighters in other countries just don't seem to have the same standing as the strapping young French pompiers, who turn heads every time they pop out for a group jog in their very short shorts. And there's never the danger that one would get wedged half way down the chimney.
Could it be their balls – the Firemen's Ball that is (Bal de Pompiers) – which they hold annually for Bastille Day on July 14th? This is often the closest most French people get to firefighters, as they open their stations doors to let the locals in for drinks, a celebration, a chat and possibly more.
The tradition reportedly dates back to the start of the 20th century as the firemen who took part in the parade were allowed to bring ladies back to the entrance of the station.
Is this what gives French firefighters the incentive to stay in shape?
Or could it be their sense of humour, notably demonstrated last year when half-naked French firefighters made headlines after miming a rendition of “Call me maybe”, a video (below) which racked up hundreds of thousands of hits (and the ire of their managers).
Who knows the reason why French firemen seem so much more handsome than their counterparts, but in case you needed further proof, why not see just a few more pics from the 2016 calendar here. If you click the link, you can buy the calendar and have the firefighters on your wall.
And raise money for charity, of course, in case you needed another reason.
All photos: Fred Goudon. Visit his site here.