SHARE
COPY LINK

WILDFIRES

French fireman accused of being serial fire starter

French authorities on Friday held a fireman from the south of France accused of being behind a series of wildfires in the region which he says he started in a quest for adrenaline.

aerial view shows french firefighters monitoring wildfire situation in southwestern france
This aerial view taken on July 29, 2022 shows firefighters monitoring situation in a burnt forest area after wildfires near Landiras, southwestern France. - The Gironde prefecture said the two fires, which have destroyed 20,800 hectares of forest in Gironde over the past 10 days and led to the evacuation of more than 36,000 people, are fixed but that firefighters still need to remain on site to monitor for possible recurrences. (Photo by Thibaud MORITZ / AFP)

The man, a volunteer fireman from the Herault region, was arrested on Wednesday, regional prosectors said.

The case of the man dubbed in media as the “pyromaniac fireman” has sparked a keen interest in France, which was shocked by a swathe of wildfires in last week’s heatwave that forced the evacuation of thousands of people.

Montpellier prosecutor Fabrice Belargent said in a statement that the man had admitted starting fires with a lighter on May 26, July 21 and, most recently, over the night of July 26-27.

“Asked about his motive, he declared that he had done this in order to provoke an intervention by the fire brigade to save him from an oppressive family environment and because of the excitement these interventions caused
him,” said Belargent.
 
“Adrenaline he called it — these are his own words,” said the prosecutor.
 
“He also said he had a need for social recognition.”
 
Adding to the irony, the full-time job of the man, who has not been identified by name but is in his 30s, was a forester, with preventing fires one of his primary responsibilities.
 
His lawyer Marie Bar told BFM TV that under questioning the man had “expressed very strong regret and above all a strong sentiment of shame”.
 
She confirmed he had been remanded in custody by an investigating judge ahead of trial.
 
“He apologised to the…. firemen who he works with as he calls them his big family. This is someone who is very devoted to his work,” she said.
 
“He finds it hard to explain. In a way he is relieved to have been arrested. He explains it as an addiction.”
 
If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison and a 150,000 euro ($153,000) fine.
 
“It’s disgusting to have this type of individual within the organisation,” former fire brigade colonel Ludovic Pinganaud told BFM, adding that out of 200,000 volunteer fireman in France there were just “some sick people” addicted to fires.
 
READ MORE:

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

ENVIRONMENT

France to probe microplastic pellet pollution on Atlantic beaches

French prosecutors said on Friday they would investigate the appearance of vast quantities of tiny toxic plastic pellets along the Atlantic coast that endanger marine life and the human food chain.

France to probe microplastic pellet pollution on Atlantic beaches

The criminal probe will follow several legal complaints about the pellet invasion lodged by local authorities and the central government in Paris, Camille Miansoni, chief prosecutor in the western city of Brest, told AFP.

The microscopic pellets, called nurdles, are the building blocks for most of the world’s plastic production, from car bumpers to salad bowls.

They are usually packed in bags of 25 kilogrammes for transport, each containing around a million nurdles, which are sometimes called “Mermaids’ Tears”. 

But they can easily spill into the ocean when a cargo ship sinks or loses a container. Environmentalists also suspect that factories sometimes dump them into the sea.

Fish and birds often mistake them for food and, once ingested, the tiny granules can make their way into the diet of humans.

Experts told AFP the nurdles found along the coast of Brittany may have come from a plastic industry container that fell into the sea.

“We can’t rule out a single source for the industrial pellets,” said Nicolas Tamic at the CEDRE pollution research body in Brest.

On Tuesday, the French government filed a legal complaint against persons unknown and called for a international search for any containers that may have been lost at sea.

Local authorities have followed suit, and the environmental crime branch of the Brest prosecutor’s office will lead the investigation.

Last weekend, around 100 people took part in a clean-up campaign on a microplastic-infested beach in Pornic in Brittany to collect pellets and draw attention to the problem. 

“We think they’ve come from a container that may have been out there for a while and opened up because of recent storms,” said Lionel Cheylus, spokesman for the NGO Surfrider Foundation.

“Our action is symbolic. It’s not like we’re going to pick up an entire container load,” said Annick, a pensioner, as she filled her yoghurt pot with nurdles. 

French politicians have taken note. Joel Guerriau, a senator from the region, has called for a “clear international designation” of  the pellets as being harmful.

Ecological Transition Minister Christophe Bechu labelled the nurdles “an environmental nightmare”, telling AFP the government would support associations fighting pellet pollution.

Ingesting plastic is harmful for human health but nurdles, in addition, attract chemical contaminants found in the sea to their surface, making them even more toxic.

Measuring less than five millimetres in size, they are not always readily visible except when they wash up in unusually huge quantities, as has been the case since late November along the northwestern French coast.

SHOW COMMENTS