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
(Photo by Philippe Lopez / AFP)

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.

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Wildfires reignite in south western France forcing residents to leave homes

Wildfires have reignited in the south western France amid unseasonably high temperatures leaving over one 1,300 hectares burned and forcing residents to evacuate their homes.

Wildfires reignite in south western France forcing residents to leave homes

As parts of southern France bake under record-high temperatures for September, forest fires reignited again in the south west, causing at least 1,300 hectares to burn and forced residents to leave their homes.

A smaller wildfire outside Dax, which is to the south of Bordeaux, burned an additional 45 hectares.

The blazes forced 540 residents in the town of Saumos, located in France’s Gironde département, to be evacuated. Four homes were destroyed.

The fires started on Monday afternoon, but strong winds and unfavourable weather conditions made it difficult for the 340 firefighters working through the night to contain the flames.

READ MORE: MAP: Where are the main wildfires in France right now?

Significant air resources were also deployed, including two Canadair planes, two helicopters and a Dash plane.

Images of the firefighting effort can be seen below:

“The winds are turning, and the town that is beginning to be surrounded by flames. Firefighters a little overwhelmed because it is coming from all sides. We are still in the process of evacuating sectors” said the mayor of Saumos to BFMTV on Tuesday morning.

Local authorities for the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region and Gironde département released the update below on Tuesday morning, stating that the fire was continuing to burn:

An investigation was also opened to determine the origin of the new flames, as gendarmes in Gironde consider the possibility it was caused by arson.

The wildfires broke out as several towns across south west France recorded record high temperatures for the month of September, with heat brought on by a post-tropical cyclone off the coast of Portugal. On Monday, Bordeaux recorded 37.5C – a peak for September that has not been seen since 1987.

Temperatures were expected to remain around 30C in the Bordeaux area on Tuesday, though the heat was expected to begin dissipating mid-week as rain and storms roll in across the region.

READ MORE: September temperature records broken in France amid new heatwave

Throughout the dry summer – France’s second hottest on record – the south west was affected by major fires that burned over 30,000 hectares in La Teste-de-Buch and Landiras.