French ex-firefighter detained over starting wildfires

France has detained a former volunteer fireman suspected of starting two wildfires in the south of the country earlier this week, a prosecutor said Saturday.

This aerial view shows burnt forest area after wildfires near La Teste-de-Buch, southwestern France.
This aerial view taken on July 29, 2022 shows burnt forest area after wildfires near La Teste-de-Buch, southwestern France. Thibaud MORITZ / AFP

The 33-year-old admitted to starting a fire that destroyed 500 square metres (5,000 square feet) of vegetation in the Herault region on Tuesday evening, Beziers prosecutor Raphael Balland said.

He has also been accused of starting another blaze earlier in the day, but has denied any responsibility, claiming he was drunk.

The man, who used to volunteer as a firefighter in another part of France, was remanded in custody on Thursday and could face up to 10 years in jail when he goes on trial next month, the prosecutor said.

He is the second firefighter to be charged with arson in the Herault region.

Late last month, French authorities detained a forester in his 30s, whose job included preventing fires, after he admitted to starting blazes on three separate occasions for the adrenaline rush. He faces up to 15 years in prison
and a 150,000-euro ($153,000) fine.

France has in recent weeks battled soaring temperatures and several devastating forest fires.

Prosecutors last month said two fires in the normally blustery and shower-prone Brittany had also been sparked by arson.

Scientists say climate change is making heatwaves around the world more frequent and more intense, which increases the risk of fires.


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Summer wildfires in France: 48 arrested on suspicion of arson

Police have arrested 48 people for allegedly starting forest fires in France during the summer, a spokeswoman told AFP Friday, after a season marked by large, devastating blazes.

Summer wildfires in France: 48 arrested on suspicion of arson

Up to 10,000 French firefighters a day were mobilised this summer to fight fires which have ravaged more than 65,000 hectares, according to the European Forest Fire Information System — a record since the start of satellite data in 2006.

Of the 48 arrested, 12 people have already been sentenced to two years in prison, while “more than a dozen” have been remanded in custody, said national gendarmerie spokeswoman Marie-Laure Pezant.

“We found young people, minors, retirees, mostly men,” she said, adding that the suspects came from all backgrounds.

Some have “a weaker psychological profile, sometimes mental disorders,” Pezant said, adding that some of the suspects were firefighters as well.

According to the National Forestry Office, nine out of 10 fires are of human origin and, on average, three out of 10 fires are intentionally started.

France’s southwestern Gironde department – home to part of Europe’s largest coniferous forest – was particularly affected this summer, with 30,000 hectares going up in smoke.